Costume designer Anna Brauch on costuming for varied gender identities in 20% Theatre's upcoming production Unknown.
How are you involved in this production and what inspired you to join the design team for Unknown?
I'm doing costume design for Unknown
and I'm stoked about it. This is my first time working with 20% and I was
really excited to have the opportunity because I love the way this theater
company interacts with the Twin Cities queer community and builds community by
creating accessible, equity-minded art and events like Queer Prom.
Talk about your background as an artist and designer.
How did you become a designer? What sorts of stories or productions do you find
most compelling to design for?
I've done fiber art, costuming and garment construction
for about fifteen years in the Minneapolis queer community, usually in the form
of organizing small social justice-oriented art events or taking a supporting
role in other artists' projects. Anything that speaks to queer
intersectionality or complex gender and sexual identities is particularly
interesting to me; my education background is in Gender Studies. The central
theme of Unknown is the evolution of queer (female) identities in the
context of their time and place in history, with intersections of race and
class, so this show is pretty on-the-nose for me, personally.
What are you bringing to this production with your
designs? How do you think you as a designer contribute to the telling of Unknown and its stories?
This is a really interesting question for me with this
show because I’m creating personal expressions of gender for each of the
characters through designing their costumes. Queer people feel the significance
of self-representation through appearance and style, and how strongly our
choices of wardrobe impact our senses of self and interactions with our
community. Even the script for this play addresses that issue directly in
dialogue between characters struggling with visibility and acceptance as queer
women with intersectional identities, and I get the awesome job of working in
collaboration with the actors and director to decide just how that plays out in
their visual self-representations. The play is also modern-day and several of
the central characters are people I see as reflections of myself and my own
community—thirty-something queer women/femmes with politicized sexual
identities—so designing this feels personal for me as well and allows for some
fun cultural references.
What have been some challenges and/or unique
opportunities of designing for Unknown?
This play has a lot of frequent scene changes making costuming a seemingly small cast a bit more challenging. I love working with other queer artists, though, and helping them to bring ideas about incorporating pieces of themselves and their own experiences of queer community into their roles.
What artists, playwrights, and/or performances have
inspired you over the years?
I grew up in the Minneapolis theater community and am so
proud of the artists and performances this city creates. The first show that
made me feel like a visible member of the queer community and filled my little
gay baby heart with theatrical urges was Hedwig and the Angry Inch,
which had a very successful Minneapolis run by the then-only LGBT theater
company in the city, Outward Spiral Theater, which was such a lovely company. I
love the gritty, DIY side of the queer performance scene, like Dykes Do Drag
and Queertopia, which allow for really personal artistic expressions and true
depictions of the complexities of non-binary gender identities.
Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and,
if so, in what ways?
This is my first time working on a 20% production, and I
hope it will not be my last!
When you’re not designing, how do you spend your time?
What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I'm a parent of two children and also work in public health as a lactation counselor. I do a lot of gender equity work within my field, and I stay ridiculously busy with sewing, music, biking, friends, and family.