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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Interview- David “D.W.” Withrow, Costume Designer.

The Fab Marquee interview by Antonio Miniño.

“When you’re in trouble, you call D.W.” This is what companies such as Emerging Artists, The Gallery Players, The Looking Glass Theatre and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids have done when it comes to trusting someone with their costume designs. Winner of the 2007 Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Costume Design in The Looking Glass Theatre’s production of Bug Boy Blues, and working non-stop since the age of 8. David “D.W.” Withrow answers a couple of questions for The Fab Marquee.

David “D.W.” Withrow

  • Should I start by calling you DW or David Withrow?

I go by DW professionally because when I first moved to the city I assisted several designers named David and three of my professors shared my name, so I started going by my initials… I first got it as a nickname in middle school after Dark Wing Duck the Disney cartoon… “When you’re in trouble, you call D. W.” It fits.

  • How did you get started in this business?

I grew up with theatre. My grandparents started and were part of theatre companies their whole lives. I started working in the costume shop at age 8 as a junior intern at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina. I used to say that I wanted to be an actor and a fashion designer, it wasn’t until I was like 13 that I realized what that really was and I haven’t stopped since.

The Gallery Players

  • What has been your greatest achievement as a costume designer?

I won the New York Innovative Theatre Award for outstanding costume design last year… that was cool… but my favorite job to date was as Isaac Mizrahi’s assistant on Three Penny Opera… It was the most amazing cast and was so much fun for me. I got to hand paint almost all of the clothes and felt really trusted and supported… He is such a riot.

  • What has been your most intricate project?

I worked on this awful project that had the most bazaar script and all of these effects… I got to make an actress’ costume burst into flames, make a wig that moved like it was underwater, and make three dresses that magically tore off and disappeared into the floor of the set… I love magnets and fire, so I had a blast, but it was totally the most challenging thing I have ever done.

  • Is it easier for a fashion designer to leap into the world of costume design, or do you think it’s the total opposite?

I think seeing how award-winning designers dress when they accept answers that question… I feel like what we do is more psychology of character and research of the period where fashion is all trend forecasting and bowing to the corporations that pay your bills… I find both to be art and hard to do and completely valid. For me the world of fashion is limiting and mainstream and the world of Theatre Opera and Dance provides endless opportunity to create and forces me to think outside the box and constantly adapt to the space and the actor.

Broadway Bares ‘07
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids

  • What’s next for DW?

I am spending the summer designing regional theatre and doing Broadway Bares like every summer… I am shooting a movie in the middle of all of that which is always fun.

  • On what stage can I see your work right now?

This month I have up: The Story of Herr Rath at Manhattan Theatre Source, Hoist the Colors at Manhattan Rep, Bordertown with (re:)Directions Theatre Co. at 14th Street Theater and Man of La Mancha at The Gallery Players in Brooklyn, which I am thrilled about and elbow deep in right now. I am building most of the costumes from scratch and painting the whole thing down and dirty. I get to do puppets and mask work and all of the things I love. The director, Tom Wojtunik, is really great with me and we have this trust and rapport that just makes doing a show this size on a budget this big a lot less daunting.

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