Ghosts at Sunset Playhouse

Ghosts at Sunset Playhouse


Any reputable theater is supposedly haunted. Indeed, Sunset has its share of ghost stories, although I have never seen or heard any phantoms myself.

Well, unless we count the dozens and dozens I’ve costumed, that is.

ghosts_SunsetPlayhouseIn October I designed both the adult and junior versions of Addams Family, which meant finding or building costumes for countless ghostly ancestors. Eighteen in the adult cast, probably close to 30 in the junior cast…that’s a lot of ghosts. The fun part of doing those shows was that those costumes could come entirely from my imagination. There are no preconceived notions of exactly what the Addams Family’s ancestors look like, so as long as I pulled ideas from many times in history, I felt confident that the audience would accept my choices.

There is a slightly different challenge with my latest group of ghosts (yes, add more ghosts to my costuming list!)…the four iconic spirits in A Christmas Carol. Unlike the aforementioned wildly imaginative ancestors, the spirits in A Christmas Carol are firmly fixed in most people’s memories. Whether having seen the show on another stage, on TV, or even in the Mr. Magoo classic cartoon, nearly everyone has an idea of just what the ghosts are supposed to look like.

I don’t believe that it is the job of a costume designer to simply copy what someone else has done (although, believe it or not, there are no patents on costume designs so I could copy one exactly if I wanted to), so I have been striving to find my own vision while staying true to what the audiences will expect. Jacob Marley needs to be ragged and ghostly, more on the order of the Addams Family ghosts and decided less cheerful than the Ghost of Christmas Present, who should call to mind a jovial Father Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come must be intimidating and terrifying. Those three are portrayed similarly enough in every show to help guide my own design.

2075baa9-b945-419f-9ddf-6d090204b852crThe Ghost of Christmas Past has been the most challenging, especially since every production seems to portray that spirit in vastly different ways. I needed to find a look that would suit this particular ghost’s demeanor and would provide a sharp contrast to Marley, whose arrival directly precedes that of Christmas Past.

All four of these Christmas spirits definitely have their own identities and looks. I hope that audiences will appreciate each of them in their own right, and that Sunset’s newest cast of ghosts will “live” up to expectations!

Joanne Cunningham