A college training or education really may not be the only way for one to become a professional in the dreamed area. Rebecca Barkhouse, a born and bred Canadian woman, proves this theory to be true.
Having lived in Beijing for 9 years as a teacher of aviation science at the Beijing Aviation and Aerospace University (Beihang University), Barkhouse was a professional pilot in her home country Canada. As a female pilot, a rare profession even in Canada, she possesses some mature calmness and rationality in her demeanor. Such a style may be far from what costume designers often use to impress people, but it is her style of choice nonetheless. Barkhouse designed all the costumes for this year’s show, Christmas Carol, at the Beijing Playhouse.
Barkhouse was first brought to the world of design by her mother and grandmother who made clothes for her and her sister in her childhood. She liked the idea of being able to create clothes from a piece of fabric. Her mother then bought a sewing machine for them and from there they started making clothes for dolls, and eventually for themselves. “For me, after learning the basics of sewing, designing was the next step.” She says. She has worked with Beijing Playhouse on three of its main stage Christmas shows as costume design assistant. This year, she became the designer.
BeijingKids interviewed Barkhouse with the following questions and answers.
Q: What’s your perspective/approach for designing?
A: For costume design, the first step is talking to the director to get his vision of what feeling or impression he wants to create with the show. Then I do some sketches and we discuss what is good or bad and then I will start making the costumes. Really inspiration can come from many places but the Internet is very helpful to give practical examples of what the director wants.
Q: How long did it take to finish all of them?
A: I started on the National holiday in October; first I choose costume pieces from the playhouse storage facility, then they were cleaned. Next the actors had to try them on for size and I’ve been working on making the adjustments and also creating some costumes from the beginning for the more elaborate costumes. I should be finished by November 15th.
Q: Any new inspirations or perspectives during the process?
A: Absolutely! I find that the idea in the designer’s head doesn’t always end up as the finished costume. There are many reasons for that, it doesn’t stay in place when the actor is dancing, it is not easy to move in, or as I work on them, there are things I see I can add and it will make the costume look so much better. I guess this is what they call the creative process!
Q: When will the play be staged or available?
A: The performances start on December 3rd and run through until December 18th.
Q: What is your perspective on the famous “Christmas Carol”, its key message?
A: I really like the story of Christmas Carol. To me it sends the message to never give up hope on anyone. It shows that people can change no matter what condition they are in and the other characters in the show really kept being good to Scrooge even though he wasn’t nice to them. So never give up and always be kind!
Q: Did your background as a pilot provide any special help or contributions to the designing process?
A: The strange thing is, yes being a pilot has really helped me in the designing and costume-making process. Even though flying an airplane is very technical, there are a lot of things that can be transferred, time management, prioritizing tasks, communication. I’m not operating a machine, but there are deadlines and changes that need to be met. It has been very helpful!
Q: What were some highlighted points for why this play production is a must-see?
A: This show is going to be very colorful, lots of action, dancing and jokes. Beijing Playhouse does a very good job of adapting plays to be enjoyed by the Chinese audience as well as the foreigners. It is a great Christmas treat to see this play and the story itself has a very good message!
One unique area this show of Christmas Carol may impress the audiences is its incorporation of two classic characters from the renowned Chinese literature “Journey to the West”. The monkey king has been included several times in previous years and this time in 2016, the pig man will also find a place in this Dickens masterpiece.
For details on the specific nights of the performances, you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.