If one man's trash is another man's treasure, then the stage of Broadway's Plymouth Theatre is indeed a treasure trove as designer Tobin Ost trolled New York City's seamier side to assemble the costumes for Brooklyn. A streetwise fairy tale, Brooklyn is populated by denizens of the mean streets who take the audience from Paris to Vietnam to Carnegie Hall. So the characters find themselves in costumes constructed from garbage bags, discarded potato chip bags, Christmas tinsel, “caution” tape, umbrellas, duct tape, Chinese take out bags…if you've ever thrown it away, the cast of Brooklyn is wearing it.
“I did try to draw the show and sketch it,” Ost explains of his creative process. “And I would sit there stumped. This is not a show that fits neatly on your desk. It wasn't until we walked around in Brooklyn and Manhattan's West side and looked in dumpsters and in the gutters did the show finally start to come together.” Ironically, a $2.99 dress of garbage bags is now being constructed in a costume shop for $2,000 and Ost was afraid that having a bigger budget would result in costumes that were “too pretty. Chaos must remain,” he says. All of the costumes were created at Martin Izquierdo Studios in New York (for the show's initial Denver run, Timberlake Studios created the costumes).
Since the show's characters are all street people, they're not exactly dressed to the nines; they're wearing garments and other materials they would find rather than buy. “The bells and whistles of the show visually tend to be using materials in ways you never expect them to be used,” Ost says. “In the real world you could have mylar or mirrors, but in their world you have the shiny lining of a potato chip bag. You find the one-to-one connection between what they have access to and what it would be in the real world.”
One outfit consists of a mat from a Twister game with orange construction netting underneath and a drop yoke made from an old US Mail bag that Ost found on the street. The whole outfit is cinched together with a couple of old neckties. The same character also has a “crown” made out of Lay's potato chip bags. Ost said that at first many of the cast members were hesitant to, well, wear garbage, but soon the cast and crew got into the act of finding interesting discarded objects for Ost's creations. “Everyone got accustomed to looking into trash piles and getting excited about it,” he adds.