Editor's Note: Linda Cho won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Musical.
"Growing up I always had an interest in fine arts and fashion, and before I started college,and before I started college, I did a semester studying just that at the Paris American Academy," says Linda Cho, winner of the 2014 TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award, which will be presented on Friday, May 2 at the Hudson Theatre in New York City. "I then attended McGill University in Montreal, Canada where I studied psychology with an eye towards medical school and hopes of becoming a plastic surgeon. There I took a fascinating elective, Costume Construction 101, taught by a nurturing teacher who encouraged my interest, and subsequently, I pursued further studies at the Yale School of Drama."
Currently represented on Broadway by The Gentlemen’s Guide To Love & Murder and The Velocity of Autumn, Cho approaches a new project by reading the script, hearing from the director, researching, doing preliminary black-and-white sketches, meeting again with the director, getting notes, making revisions, and coloring the renderings. She has worked as far afield as Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK, Can Stage in Canada, Hong Kong Performing Arts Center, National Theatre in Taipei, and Stratford Shakespeare in Canada.
"I think I have different categories for challenging," she admits about creating costumes. "There’s challenging design like in Twelfth Night at Hartford Stage. The director wanted to use the artist Erte as the source of inspiration but not rooted in any particular period, so we created our own visual vocabulary. Then there are challenges in production. A costume designer is constantly balancing elements like budget, various personalities on stage and off, materials, and time, all at constantly changing venues with new people each time. If any one of these elements tips the scale, it can create a big challenge. I’ve lived through every permutation I think. The saving grace is a wonderful experience that can tip the scales back in your favor.
For The Gentlemen’s Guide To Love & Murder, Cho’s process developed in an atypical way. "Since it was a new work, it was work shopped over the course of many years, so I got to see early staged readings," she recalls. "Jefferson Mays plays all the D’Ysquith family members, and in the reading he had so many simple and brilliant physical transformative ideas that brought each character to life. Before I put pencil to paper, I met with him to get his input on what he envisioned for each of his characters. For one of them, he requested an eye patch, safari helmet, and mustache. It made me think of Steampunk fashion, and so I carried it throughout the design. Using this sexy, contemporary reference was liberating in that I could step away from the traditional modes and mores of English Edwardian dress and bring something fresh and fun to the design."
The TDF/Sharaff Young Master Award is presented to a designer whose work, beyond being promising, has come to fruition. The award, honoring a designer of distinction early in his or her career, is given in recognition of Irene Sharaff’s wish to see young designers encouraged on their way to fully acknowledged success and excellence in the field. "I think this is especially meaningful because it is an award given by fellow costume designers,"says Cho. "Their recognition is profoundly meaningful."
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