John Pennoyer, a frequent designer at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, looked to the Far East for inspiration in designing this season's production of Shakespeare's Pericles. “It's very A Thousand and One Nights, very Scheherazade,” says Pennoyer. “The play is a travel adventure placed around the Aegean Sea originally, as that would have been the extent of Shakespeare's geographic knowledge. We give him air miles and take it to North Africa, with a strong Bedouin accent, and go on to Greece, India, Japan, Thailand, and Bali.” This Far Eastern landscape gave Pennoyer a wide palette of fabrics and colors as well as traditional costume designs based on Eastern ritual and ceremony. “I went to Thailand for two weeks to do research, and to villages near the Mekong river where silk is made,” he explains. “I found fabulous silks at reasonable prices as well as garments and silver jewelry.”
The costumes range from a chiton, or simple draped men's garment from Greece, that Pennoyer has recreated in a rayon that drapes nicely, to interpretations of traditional Samurai ornamental costumes. “I looked at Kurosawa's films, especially Ran,” says the designer, who created five different warrior costumes using silks and Italian leathers. He also bought a traditional Japanese wedding kimono on eBay and other internet sites. “Even at $500 apiece they are a bargain,” he says, describing rich embroidered and painted silks with gold threads.
The goddesses in the Temple of Diana, placed in Bali, wear costumes inspired by the Bard's reference to silver livery. “He meant white, but I mixed white and silver,” says Pennoyer, who created headdresses with silver feathers on springs and silk sarongs with metal threads for his vestal virgins. Other costumes illustrate the splendor of India, including long embroidered coats called jams. “There is an Indian neighborhood in Toronto that is a treasure trove for great fabrics,” Pennoyer adds. “We bought sheer gold saris with spiral thread embroidery that they only do in India, and used the fabric for costumes.”
Pennoyer also designed the set for Pericles, giving the production a neutral look with a white floor. “The color comes in with the costumes,” he says. This incredible Far Eastern-inspired costume parade runs in repertory in Stratford from May 24 through October 21, 2003.