Pete Rush: Faux Beards and Riot Gear
Theater costume designer Pete Rush builds looks that cleverly unfold characters' personalities. Usually his budget is jack poop, so he shops at Sodo's Goodwill bins or Value Village for basic garments and then layers them with materials to create "artsy, found-object-y, Mad-Max-y" effects, such as cryptic electronic pieces, circuit boards, backpacks, buckles, sports padding, metal studs, tactical harnesses, coiling phone cords, plastic grocery bags, police riot gear, duct tape, spray paint, and tarp blankets. Past outfits involved lightbulbs, fake flowers, wrapping paper, Christmas-tree skirts, faux beards made of lace doilies, and a cat-burglar coat constructed from dozens of black leather handbags, still inlaid with coin pockets and handles. And for the lead of a "hiphop devil-worship musical," he used a neon fishnet shrug from Broadway Boutique, discovered amid the standard inventory of sequined booty shorts, sheer body stockings, and delightfully flimsy bathing suits. ("I call it the Hooker Store.")
Other finds include "this nasty old T-shirt I found lying on the ground by a dumpster. It said 'freaks, faggots, drunks, and junkies' and came from some GG Allin tour." (GG was a punk rocker, self-batterer, and public shit-tosser; he was buried in a black leather motorcycle jacket and jock strap following a heroin overdose in 1993.) Because it embodied a role, Pete presented the garment to the actor (he washed it first): "She loved it. She was saying, 'This informs my character so much.'"
Pete also developed the full line for Antony and Cleopatra, running now at the Playhouse at Seattle Center. "There are around 500 pieces altogether," he says, and lead actor Amy Thone wears wigs with microbraids tipped in gold, piles of costume jewelry, and a half dozen glitzy ensembles, sourced mostly from a discount prom dress website. (Though Amy handles it smoothly, portraying the most beautiful woman in the sum of human existence invites a certain pressure. In his biography, C. David Heymann wrote that Liz Taylor as Cleopatra insisted on wearing makeup for each scene, even after she was told she didn't need it, and she powdered the roof of her mouth: "Well, they'll see inside my mouth when I speak my lines. I want to look perfect," she said.)
In this production, laundry is a big deal. There is movement and hot lights, and clothes get pretty sweaty. And the stage is filled with crushed walnut shells to replicate the ancient desert sands: "It's less dusty and less abrasive than dirt, though it ends up everywhere, somehow. It gets into all the hems and pockets."
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