Dirty Laundry: Unpacking The Costume Closet

Minisode: The Inside Dirt on Dirty Laundry

January 25, 2021 Johanna Pan Season 1 Episode 0
Dirty Laundry: Unpacking The Costume Closet
Minisode: The Inside Dirt on Dirty Laundry
Show Notes Transcript

"The Inside Dirt on Dirty Laundry" or "Just What Is This, Anyway?"

Host Johanna Pan and Producer Shayna O'Neill are here to introduce themselves and the podcast! Find out what to expect from Dirty Laundry's upcoming episodes.

Support The Show:
Donate to Dirty Laundry
Join Our Patreon

Find Us Online:

Host: Johanna Pan
Producers: Shayna O'Neill & Johanna Pan
Music: Jay Ong
Audio Engineer: Justin Sabe

Click here for a transcript of this podcast.

(theme music plays)

Johanna: Hi, I’m Johanna Pan.

Shayna: And I’m Shayna O’Neill.

J: And we’re the producers of Dirty Laundry: Unpacking The Costume Closet

(theme music stops)

S: We are so excited to bring the podcast to you, but before we release our first episode we wanted to give you a chance to get to know us a little bit and get to know the podcast. So, Johanna, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

J: I’m a costume and scenic designer, born and raised in sunny Singapore, and I first fell in love with costumes while doing Odyssey of The Mind in secondary three, or in ninth grade in America. Uh, I studied at ACJC in the drama elective program and eventually I went to Ithaca College for theatrical production. And I remember very distinctly when I was 18 this idea of going to a new place where I was trying to basically avoid anything and anyone that was Singaporean or Chinese. Um, so I made a very clear and distinct choice during orientation, during international student orientation, to not sit with the other Asian kids. Um, and I definitely had a sense of, like, feeling like I never fit in in Singapore and I was definitely trying to find myself in a way that now I realize was so full of internalized colonialism that was really prob- that is still really problematic. Um, and it’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a lot of my life and in the last 11 years living, working, studying in the United States, I have come to learn so much more about myself I think than if I’d stayed in Singapore. Um, I’ve learned that even when you take the Singaporean girl out of Singapore, you can’t take the Singapore out of her. Um and that at the end of the day I am who I am, and that’s something that I have learned to understand and negotiate better, and to learn when some of that internalized colonialism that I feel like I’ve grown up with, um, rears its ugly head, and how to stop myself from doing, like, some of these learned behaviors essentially. Um, and so part of my artistic practice is centered around decolonizing the imagination, uh, breaking down the notions of feminized labor and anti-racism. And this is all very near and dear to my heart, as you can clearly tell, because it’s something that I personally struggle with on a day-to-day basis, and especially in my work. Um, I do continue to harbor hope for a more sustainable humankind. I hope that in the face of adversity that we can have a future that is filled with equity, inclusion, and diversity. And all of this is really important to me personally, which is why I really wanted to work on this podcast. So Shayna, tell me a little bit about yourself.

S: I work as a stage manager for mostly theatre, but also opera, dance, special events. Um, and I have been pursuing stage management since I was 14, uh, which I am realizing as I say this means I’ve been stage managing for almost 20 years, which is shocking, uh, and difficult to process. Um, recently I’ve also moved into production management, producing, and even a little bit of dramaturgy. Um, but I’ve always known that I wanted to be in the arts. I’ve always known I wanted to do live performance. Uh, my mom was a modern dancer and a dance teacher, so I grew up, feel really fortunate to have grown up in a very artistic environment. Um, and once I fell in love with stage management, uh, that’s where I headed. I went to The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, uh, and then I migrated back to the East Coast. Um, I grew up in Columbia, Maryland, which is where I am recording now, uh, due to the pandemic. I’m usually based in New York and I work pretty much all up and down the East Coast. I do a lot of work in New Haven, a lot of work in New York, uh, and some amount of work in the, the sort of DC Baltimore area as well. Um, as a stage manager I would say that my practice is focused on, uh, communication, collaboration, and creating a safe environment for the artists that I’m supporting to, uh, be able to produce their most authentic work. Um, that’s just a little bit about me. Um, moving on, let’s talk a little bit about the podcast. Uh, Johanna, where did the idea for Dirty Laundry come from?

J: So, Dirty Laundry was born out of election anxiety and this feeling of a lack of agency that I had. So I’m not an American citizen. I, uh, do not have the right to vote in America because I’ve been there on a student visa and then a work visa. Um, and I’ve spent almost a third of my life in a country where it felt like I had no agency, particularly in the last four years. And so I needed a way to channel all that anxiety into a productive, uh, manner and that manner manifested itself in this podcast.

S: Great. Uh, and can you tell us a little bit about some of the topics that we’re gonna cover in upcoming episodes and some of the people that we’re gonna be talking to?

J: Absolutely. So we are, and this is by no means an exhaustive guest list ‘cause there are some other really amazing people that we’re working on getting in on some of these episodes as well, but Nikiya Mathis who is a hair and wig designer and an actor is going to come on to talk about Black hair. Clint Ramos, Tony Award-winning costume designer, set and costume designer; Dede Ayite, Tony Award-nominated costume designer; Elizabeth Whistler, um, are gonna come on and talk about decolonizing costume history. Qween Jean is gonna come on and talk about degendering our clothes and transphobia. Kristen P. Ahern is gonna talk about sustainability. Melissa Ong is gonna come on and talk about cultural appropriation. A lot of these people are costume designers and activists in a lot of these fields, um, but we’re also working on getting in costume production staff, um, as well as other actors, casting directors, um, directors to even be a part of these conversations because, as we all know, none of these conversations are limited to just costume designers or costume production staff, but also involve, like, actors and what they go through and what they’re doing and their process as well. So we’re hoping to talk about fat-phobia, access needs, pregnancy and parenthood, care and intimacy, and most importantly we’re hoping to end our season by talking about designing around bias and what that means when your entire industry is based on signifiers and assumptions that people are making about the way they’re dressed to understand who they are. So why did you want to work with me on this, Shayna? What drew you to this?

S: Well first of all, I just really like working with you. Um.

J: Thanks.

S: Well it’s the truth. Um, Johanna and I started, uh, working together I think it was in 2019, um, so not that long ago. Uh, she was a costume designer and I was the stage manager on a new play called Round Table, uh, at Fault Line Theatre in New York. And we just got along pretty instantly, you know, we had good communication, uh, really great conversations, uh, and Johanna’s really talented at what she does, everybody. Uh, it’s important to know that. Um.

J: Thanks.

S: So when Johanna started, uh, posting online about some of, um, these issues that she was interested in having a more, like, robust conversation and getting more resources out to theatre makers about these topics, I just thought, uh, I want to be a part of that. I want to, you know, support making this happen in any way that I can. Uh, and it’s honestly been an honor for me that she, uh, was interested in having me collaborate with her. Um, on a, you know, more global reason for why I wanna work on this is because, uh, as a, a stage manager, I end up seeing every aspect of production. I’m in design meetings, uh, I’m in rehearsals, I’m dropping in on fittings, I’m there for every performance, I’m there for tech. And, uh, I do a lot of, uh, switching between talking to various groups of people, uh, within that whole process. Um, and as someone who is, uh, white, comes from a solid middle class background, um, and who I’m pretty sure reads as a straight woman even though I am actually a queer and genderqueer person, uh, I have a lot of privilege and I always have had. And unfortunately most of the design and production world is filled with people who are just like me, if not even more privileged than me. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, which I know we’re gonna get into during a lot of our episodes. Um, but, I want to see a world with a lot fewer people like me, uh, working backstage. I wanna see a lot more diversity, a lot more equity, a lot more inclusion, uh, which are the big, the big three that we’re talking about now, uh, especially because theatre prides itself on presenting everyone’s stories. Um, and I end up working on a lot of shows that are about the experience of Black people, the experience of trans people, the experience of, of gay people, and fortunately in casting now we’ve actually been, you know, casting people who are those identities to play those identities and bringing in directors and bringing in playwrights. Um, but we’re really behind in doing that with our design teams and our production teams and, and our stage management staff. Um, and so I’ve been in a lot of situations where when I’m in rehearsal and we’re working on a piece, I’m supporting actors and directors and playwrights who are telling a story about their identity and are keying into certain important aspects of it and have certain priorities about it. And then that never translates into the conversation that we’re having with the designers and the technical staff. Um, there’s just this big missing gap, uh, and I see a lot of things not get as fully realized as they could, and I see a lot of, uh, uh, artists feeling diminished or misunderstood or like their identities are not being acknowledged. And I think a lot of it comes from this gap in understanding, uh, on the production side versus the performance side. And I think that a big part of that gap in understanding is a lack of diversity. So I wanted to be able to help put something out into the world that will hopefully address some of that and get a lot of my colleagues to think more critically and, um, uh, specifically about those issues. Um, so I’m gonna turn it back around on you, Johanna, and ask you what you’re hoping to, um, accomplish with the podcast.

J: I think something Shayna just said also reminded me of something that I really wanted to say, which is that this podcast isn’t just for people who work in costumes. And I think that’s kind of the, of, of something that’s really important to remember, that this podcast, even though the focus of the podcast is about costumes, it has to do with everyone that’s involved in theatre and hopefully our audience members as well. Because all of these issues are things that we should be talking about in relation to things that are happening in the wider world, but also are issues that don’t just involve costume designers and costume production staff, but also the actors, the directors, the stage managers, the casting directors, general management, right, like it, it filters down to every level of staff that you can possibly imagine that works in the theatre. And what we’re hoping to achieve is that it, it’s felt like there’s this big reckoning with a lot of big questions in theatre right now about race, about equity, about inclusion. And it also feels like with the relief of like the election and also a vaccine now that there might be some normalcy coming back to our line of work, right? Like we all know that none of us are working right now, which is the other reason that we have time to do, to do this podcast. But, um, it’s also really important to remember that, like, as we start to think about what does our next season look like, we don’t forget that these questions existed before Covid and before the election. Um, it’s really important to remember that, that to hold onto these issues because, just because we’re grateful or happy to be back at work, to be doing what we love, it doesn’t mean that these issues can just get swept back under the rug and we forget about them. We can’t do that. We also felt like a lot of these conversations that are happening about big picture theatre issues, um, a lot of the big picture issues were important and great and really helpful to talk about, but very few of these conversations were happening about the field of costumes. And once again this really affects not just, the costumes don’t just affect the costume designer and the costume production staff, it affects the actors, it affects the show, it affects the director, it affects all these other people. And so every topic that we’re planning on talking about loops back into this idea of the system of like what, that what we have doesn’t and hasn’t been working for a really long time. So how can we change it? And how do we talk about it? And how do we talk about these things if these conversations are happening disparately in very small places, but no one’s actually talking about all of the issues together and how they holistically relate to each other.

S: Yeah, I think the intersectionality of these issues is something that we really wanna bring to the forefront in this podcast. That’s part of why I’m excited about it.

J: Yup, ok, so that’s about it for our mini-episode. Shayna, any other information you want to give our listeners?

S: Yeah, just a few, uh, quick brass tacks details. Uh, we are planning to do one episode a month, uh, and we should have the first episode out for you shortly so, uh, stay following us on our social media platforms and we will, uh, announce when that drops. Um, I also wa- just wanted to highlight that we’re a very small, two-person, uh, sort of unofficial operation, but it is important to us that we compensate all of our guests, uh, and the other people who are working with us for their time. Um, everyone should be compensated for all of their work and their time, but especially when we’re going into topics like these that require a lot of emotional labor, um, we want to make sure that our guests are getting paid. So on our website, on our social media you’re gonna find all of these links in our episode description about how you can support us if you want. If you’re able to donate anything, even a dollar a month, it will help us compensate the people who are bringing you all of their knowledge and all of their work to this podcast. Um, and I guess the final thing is as these episodes come out we’re gonna try to provide you with as many resources as possible to further expand your knowledge. So anything that gets mentioned in the episodes, we’re gonna have, uh, linked on our website, we’re gonna have linked in our show notes. Any further reading or, uh, you know, conversations that we think might be helpful for you to explore, those are gonna be there. So we’re hoping that you, uh, as theatre practitioners, as theatre enthusiasts, can take what we discuss here, which might be a very basic ABCs of a topic, and go further explore it yourself and further bring the discussion out into the world. Um, and I also, you know, we’re gonna be really interested to hear your feedback too. So we’re looking forward to it. And, uh, that’s all that I’ve got. So get ready for episode 1, which is coming soon, about feminized labor. And, uh, Johanna, you wanna say goodbye?

J: Bye! 

(theme music plays)

S: Thanks for listening. Bye!

J: Bye. 

(theme music stops)