A Labour of Love: Amelia Taverner on Wellington
Love's Labours Lost is this years Summer Shakespeare production - a Wellington time honoured tradition of 30 years of performing the Bard's greatest hits in the Botanical Gardens in Wellington. But what is Shakespeare without sumptuous costuming?
"I thought Wellington was super eclectic. I remember thinking I couldn't distinguish the richest person from the poorest person."
Costume designer, the very talented Amelia Taverner, is a Wellingtonian by choice. She has been living here with her partner, Sam Trubridge (who The Residents interviewed last year) for just over 2 years. Amelia was attracted to work on the production (voluntarily) because the style of Shakespeares costumes feeds into her Master's in Costume Design at Massey University. Amelia has a particularly interesting challenge in the play, as all the male parts will be played by females and all the female parts will be played by males "just to mix it up". But Amelia is rising to the occasion. The Residents met Amelia to find out how a Canadian costumer finds herself down the bottom of the world in Wellington, New Zealand.
"My Mom always sewed"
Amelia is from just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada from a city called Barrie. She attended the prestigious York University in Toronto for Performance and Design. While she was there she worked with Peter McKinnon, a professor of production, on his three volume book series, World Scenography. "It's this amazing book for any kind of theatrical designer - it's like a history book with gorgeous images." Initially, however, Amelia didn't get a smooth ride. After applying, Amelia didn't get into her first course of choice in production and had to petition her professor to let her in the course she wanted to be in for the Honours programme. McKinnon was so impressed by her gumption, he asked Amelia to be his assistant.
Amelia has always been in love with the theatre. But it was only when she was at University she fell in love with design. "My mom always sewed" Amelia remembers. "She would make all our Halloween costumes. So at University when we had costuming classes, it came really naturally to me. In our fourth year, I was first of three designers to do a full production. I continued from there. I still get the gratification of being a performer where I get to analyse the text and understand the characters."
Scene it all: World Scenography
The Book 'World Scenography' itself is an impressive feat. It covers 1975-2013 in three books and is a global history of scenic design, lighting design and costumes from performances. The aim was to comprehensively capture development in stage production. The editors are on every continent and regional editors. The book is chronological, by year - so New Zealand and China and Zimbabwe may be on the same page.
After working on the book for two years, which involved travelling around the world to different editor's countries. It was while travelling that Amelia met Sam (who was editing the Oceania chapters). The pair had already met in New York in relation to the book but it was in Sao Paolo, Brazil, working on it further that the pair decided to "get together". They have now been going out almost three years. How did they decide where to live? "It wasn't really a decision. Sam is busy with The Performance Arcade - his performance series on the Wellington waterfront. So I applied to the Masters programme at Massey University. I had never been so far away from home" but my friend weren't surprised. They already think I am that friend who will travel half way across the world to do something crazy" Amelia laughs.
Away from Home: "I remember thinking I couldn't distinguish the richest person from the poorest person"
When she arrived in Wellington however, it was a jolt to reality. There wasn't an chance at first to put her skills into practice. Amelia worked at temporary jobs until she started her Masters at Massey. "It's been really good for me to have something for myself - it has allowed me to grow more." Amelia was, however, struck by Wellington's unique flavour straight away. "I thought Wellington was super eclectic. I remember thinking I couldn't distinguish the richest person from the poorest person. That kind of class system didn't come through the way it does in somewhere like London or Toronto. Whenever we would go to gallery openings or show openings - people wear T-shirts and shorts - and I felt over dressed for everything. But maybe that's me as a costume designer."
As far as buying goes, her favourite fabric shop is The Fabric Warehouse. She also shops at Dotti (where she buys most of her dresses). Safe to say, Amelia had a real eye for fabric.
Inspiration is key for Amelia to create her amazing costumes. She sees great power in costuming. "It can really impact spectacle, illusion. It is directly on the actors skin. It communicates to the audience everything - the time period, place. It affects how convincing it is. Bad costuming takes the audience out of the moment."
When it comes to period, her love is the Art Deco era. A favourite film for costume is 'The Duchess' with Keira Knightly because "all the fabric - anything with a corset and a big poofy dress". Sophia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette' gets praise. She loves the classic, 'the Phantom of the Opera'. "Costume Spectacle at it's finest" Amelia notes. She also approves of the costuming in 'Mid-Summer's Nights Dream' by the Royal New Zealand Ballet performed in 2015. It is a shame, one cannot help but think, there are rare chances to wear such a outfit that Amelia might make around in Wellington.
Wellington holds more for Amelia yet. After Summer Shakespeare, Amelia is hoping to finish her Masters in 2016. She will also have a piece in The Performance Arcade 2016 - 'Asylum'. It is a piece that responds to the refugee crisis, but Amelia notes the title is deliberately loaded. She may be returning to Canada in May via the Bahama's for Sam's brother's free diving competition.
"Wellington has so many cafe's - you could really go somewhere different everyday of the week!"
While life may be peachy in the creative sphere, there are limitations. Amelia's biggest frustration is balancing studying full-time with the cost of living in Wellington and the cost of fabric. "That and visa costs - it makes it very hard to survive sometimes". But she has much praise for the city and it's abundance of cafes. "Wellington has so many cafe's - you could really go somewhere different everyday of the week".
Amelia's hot spots are Rouge and Vagabond and Midnight Espresso. There is one caveat however. Amelia says she doesn't understand why Wellingtonians, who love their coffee so much, are not on board with an ice coffee "except for Customs". "It's crazy - get up with the play Wellington. All I want is a long black over ice and milk. Yes, there is cold brew. But let's make ice coffee happen. NO ice-cream!"