With an NYIT Award Nomination under her belt and a bunch of exciting projects in the pipeline, costume designer Travis Boatright's career is off to an exciting start. Get to know this talented artist below, and check out the upcoming musical Royal Fables to see her work in action. More info at libratheater.org!
THEASY: Tell us a little about yourself! Where are you from? What were your first theatrical endeavors?
TRAVIS BOATRIGHT: First off the bat, yes, my name is Travis, and yes, I am a girl! No, Travis is not a family name, yes I was born with it, and if you’d like the whole story of how I got my name, call my mom -- she loves to tell it! Although I was born and (mostly) raised in Atlanta, GA, I have moved 14 times. The best move -- other than to New York -- was definitely living 30 minutes away from Disney World between the ages of 4 and 7. We went to Disney World almost every single weekend -- god bless my mother for watching Beauty and the Beast: Live Onstage! about 5 million times. I was surrounded by fairy tales, happy endings, and pretty, pretty princesses. With a childhood like that, what else could I do but end up in the theater?
My mom took me to my first musical (Fiddler on the Roof) at age 4, and I loved it. We moved back to Atlanta just in time for the 1996 Olympics. Our apartment building was right across the street from the Woodruff Arts Center, home to the Alliance Theater. I have a very, very special place in my heart for the Alliance. Not only is it where I first took my first acting classes at age 9, but also where I had my first job at age 15 working as a teaching assistant for their summer camp program. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be hired back by the Alliance -- this time developing and teaching my own Special FX Makeup camp for high school students.
THEASY: When did you discover costume design and why do you love it?
TB: Hindsight really is 50-50. I have always loved playing dress up to a crazy degree, and even when acting in school productions my favorite day was always the first day we got costumes. I never really paid attention to that though, or rather never really thought of it as an option, until my grandmother and I visited New York to attend my aunt Kathryn’s wedding. While in New York we saw Aida on Broadway. I was blown away by the spectacle of the costumes -- it was definitely the first time I remember noticing what people wore as being separately (but equally) interesting from the rest of the show. I turned to my grandmother at intermission and said, “all I want to do is make something like that.”
I was hooked! And, so importantly, I had an immense amount of support from my family. My mother found night classes on historical costumes I could take even in high school; my grandmother taught me how to sew and helped me as I struggled through my first costume builds.
I love that costumes can instantly tell you about a character. What we wear says so much about who we are. Why is he wearing that watch? Why is her skirt fraying? Every little detail helps tell the story. The audience may not even notice most of these details, but they help the actor get into their role. Hands down, the coolest costume detail I ever saw was when my high school put on Beauty and the Beast. On Cogsworth’s post-transformation costume, the buttons of his top were little tiny clocks. How cool is that?!
Ok…around this time is probably a good time to mention I’m a total nerd.
THEASY: Where did you study and who are your influences?
TB: I went to DePaul University in Chicago, and later transferred to New York University, where I graduated with a BFA in Drama.
Major influences: history, things I see on the street, the actors I work with -- anything and everything. Last year I spent two weeks in Russia and Ukraine (just before things got crazy), and was blown away by the amazing costumes, jewelry, and architecture I saw, as well as the fascinating people I met. I’m not lying, people, I had to be dragged away from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, or I might still be there!
As far as actual designers, Alexander McQueen definitely stands out. His use of alternative materials in clothing speaks deeply to me. His work is just so cool! I have also been lucky to work for two New York designers, Lex Liang and Kitty Leech, who influence and inspire me in the work that I do.
I’m very drawn to shows off the beaten path. Many of the productions I work on are dark, gritty pieces. I’ve often joked that for such a happy person, I do design shows with a lot of blood! I think there can be beauty in ugly, distressed clothing. Fun fact: did you know yellow ochre dye is perfect for sweat stains? Because I do! Two recent shows gave me free reign to get my gore on -- Hot Season, produced by Strange Sun Theater at the Sheen Center, and Madhouse, a short play at the Flea Theater as part of their Cutthroat series.
Sometimes it’s almost a relief to work on something bright and enchanting, which brings us to…
THEASY: You are currently designing the costumes for a new musical called Royal Fables. Can you tell us a little about the project and your role?
TB: Oh my god, guys, you have got to see this show! As I mentioned earlier, I used to live very close to Disney World (as my fiancé says, “that’ll mess a girl up”). Royal Fables isn’t a retelling of fairy tales, but rather a series of songs told from the princesses’ points of view. We often see princesses as vapid, one-dimensional creations, but when you think about what these women go through in these tales, it’s actually quite disturbing. These are strong women, passionate women, and I absolutely love them. The music and lyrics are by Nicholas Luckenbaugh, and I think he did a great job giving each princess a unique and exciting voice. There are many masks involved in the show, which is my primary challenge in designing the piece. Each mask should hint at what princess is wearing it without being hit-you-on-the-head obvious. It’s a fine balance, but I’m psyched about it. There are also fabulous flowing dresses -- very dance-oriented, which is fun to play with.
THEASY: What's next for you?
TB: I have a bunch of very exciting projects coming up both on and off stage. This fall I’m designing A Midsummer Night’s Dream through NYU’s Meisner Studio, as well as a series of Ghost costumes that will be exhibited as part of the Highline Park’s Halloween Celebration. After Royal Fables, I will be teaming up with Libra Theater Company again for it’s winter production of Kind Souls, directed by Alexander Greenfield. Teaching at the Alliance was wonderful this past year, and I’m hoping to come back next year for more FX Makeup shenanigans. Basically, I’m planning to “keep on keepin’ on” as the saying goes! It’s a long road to Broadway, and most designers don’t get there. I don’t know if I will or not. But, then again, I’ve always believed in fairy tales and happy endings.