After seeing the recent Champaing-Urbana Theatre Company (CUTC) student production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I was impressed by the costumes. So, I interviewed the head costumer, Sheri Doyle, about her design choices. Doyle was a delightful person to have a conversation with and photograph. It was clear that costuming was truly a passion of hers.
Smile Politely: Tell me about this last show and the costuming you did for it.
Sheri Doyle: This was a really fun show to costume. I can’t take credit for the idea to design the brides skirts out of old quilts, I borrowed the idea from the 1954 original movie’s costume designer who went to the Salvation Army and bought old quilts to make their dresses. I thought it would work to cut quilts in half and have one part on the brother’s bunk beds in the first act, then have them disappear in the second act and have them show up on the brides as skirts. I needed the cowboy shirts in the challenge dance to be able to give so I made them out jersey, instead of the regular cotton, and my daughter, Kayleigh, put pearl snaps on all of them. Then of course all the brides challenge dance dresses were made to match so that their costumes would foreshadow who they would end up with. I tried to save CUTC as much money as I could, I costumed over 100 pieces for $73, of course CUTC has so many pieces already at your disposal to work with.
SP: Tell me about your sewing background.
Doyle: My mom’s a seamstress, but my sewing didn’t take off until my daughter Kayleigh started dancing in the Nutcracker for C-U Ballet. Just like the dancers who start off being mice I started with the mouse costumes and worked my way up. I did that for five years, then Kayleigh switched to the Dance Arts program at Springer and I’ve been one of the costume leads there for the last four years.
SP: What other productions have you costumed?
Sheri: I’ve helped with everything my daughter’s performed in, however, my first intense experience with CUTC was Thoroughly Modern Millie with costume designer Malia Andrus. She’s amazingly talented, I stand in awe of her. The next year they asked me to costume Urinetown, and since then I’ve costumed Annie, The Velveteen Rabbit, Bye Bye Birdie, and now, Seven. My daughter is my right hand, everything I can do she can also, we make a good team.
SP: What is next for you?
Doyle: Well, Joe Murphy asked me to do Seven on closing night of Bye Bye Birdie so that show will be my next project.
See more photographs of Sheri’s costumes in the gallery below. Photographs taken by Marta Conway.