Jeffrey Meek, Costume Designer Extraordinaire

by Mar 22, 2016

“From the beautiful choreography of Oklahoma City Ballet to the creative sets at The Pollard Theatre, the people of Oklahoma can be proud of the dedicated designers, performers and artists sharing their talents.”  -Jeffrey Meek

We’re very proud of Resident Costume Designer Jeffrey Meek! Jeffrey is a familiar face around Oklahoma City and has worked with thousands of Oklahoma performers, giving them a beautiful wardrobe to make them shine on any stage. With nearly 100 Lyric shows under his belt, we asked him for an inside look at his history with costuming, the design process, and a few other facts you may not know about this Oklahoma favorite.

Jeffrey

Jeffrey Meek, Resident Costume Designer

 

First, tell us about yourself and your history with costuming.

Originally from Texas, I came to Oklahoma City to earn my master’s degree in Costume Design at Oklahoma City University. After graduating, I spent the next several years designing wardrobe for theatre, opera, and theme parks all around the country. In 2000, I began working with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma for their 5-show summer season. Since that time I have become the Resident Costume Designer for Lyric and this summer celebrate costuming my 100th production with DREAMGIRLS.

 

What’s different about costuming a classic show like THE FANTASTICKS, as opposed to a brand new show like MANN… AND WIFE?

With classic shows, like THE FANTASTICKS, much of the logistics of costuming the show have been worked out over years of productions.  This show does lend itself to a considerable amount of artistic input.  I do feel like the piece was originally produced during an experimental time in American Theatre.  In designing it, I wanted to pay homage to the style of the original production and still incorporate the director of this production’s vision.   

When working on a new piece like MANN… AND WIFE, flexibility is the key.  Scripts can change daily.  Characters and scenes develop throughout the rehearsal process.  I have learned to never get attached to a certain design.  Inevitably, the one costume you spend the most time and energy on will be the one that is cut by the time the show gets to opening night.

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Zachary Prince and Liz Shivener in the 2016 production of MANN… AND WIFE. Costumes by Jeffrey Meek. Photo by KO Rinearson.

 

What types of research/influences do you use for your designs?

When I began designing, research was much more difficult.  I would rely on books and actual magazines from the period to research the styles of the time.  With the introduction of the internet, the research game was completely changed.  I now have access to more information than I can imagine to research a time period.  

For 20th Century design, I enjoy research with fashion magazines, vintage sewing patterns and actual photos of the period.  For shows set in the later century, I love searching for actual period yearbooks from the period.  They often show everyday fashion and hairstyles of American youth.  For earlier shows, I spend time looking through artwork of the period.  From Renaissance paintings to Grecian pottery, everything seems to give a slight glimpse into fashions of the time.

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Lyric’s THE ODD COUPLE, 2014. Costumes by Jeffrey Meek. Photo by KO Rinearson.

 

Do you have a routine process that you follow from design to opening night or does it change with each show? If yes, what is that process?

Every show is roughly its own monster.  The process always starts with the script.  I read scripts three or four times to get myself acquainted with the show and how it “works.”  After meetings with the director, choreographer and fellow designers, I begin the design process.  I begin with basic thoughts on design and the needs for the show.  After I have a basic outline of the costumes needed for each character, I begin the sourcing process.  Many designs must be flexible to be made out of fabrics and trims that are available.  I may have visions of a beautiful orange, silk paisley chiffon dress.  If that fabric is not available, I must alter the design to whatever I can get my hands on.  I travel to New York and Dallas to shop for trims and fabrics I cannot buy in the OKC area. If all goes as planned, I can find all of the materials necessary for the production before we begin to build the costumes.

After designs are finalized and materials are purchased, the building begins.  I usually create the patterns and cut most of the costumes in Lyric’s Costume Shop.  Three very talented seamstresses work to build the costumes.  A large show can take three or four months to build.   

After the costumes are made and the headpieces and craft items built, the actors come in for individual fittings.  In larger productions, some actors can wear as many as 8 to 10 costumes per show.  In this summer’s production of DREAMGIRLS, the three leading ladies wear over 20 costumes EACH!  After alterations are made, the costumes are moved into the theatre for dress rehearsals. After 24 hours of fine tuning, the costumes arrive center stage for the opening night audience….and the costume shop staff rests.

 

What is your favorite show you’ve designed for?

I am asked this question a lot.  I have so many favorite shows, for many different reasons.  Some shows, such as last season’s BIG FISH, are just fun!  There were so many different styles of costumes from glitzy to rags.  It was an artistic piece and working with Lyric’s Michael Baron on such a creative production made the process artistically rewarding and ultimately, in my opinion, successful!

BIG FISH, 2015. Costumes by Jeffrey Meek. Photo by KO Rinearson.

Lyrics BIG FISH, 2015. Costumes by Jeffrey Meek. Photo by KO Rinearson.

 

What is your dream show to design for?

I have always wanted to design CRAZY FOR YOU.  It is an old-school, flashy 1930’s tap show.  I saw the original NYC production when I was a freshman in college and the costumes left such an impression on me. It also ends with a stage full of Ziegfeld Follies showgirls! How can I not be excited about that much glitter and feathers!

 

What makes the Oklahoma performing arts community so special?

I love the arts community of Oklahoma City.  I enjoy going to productions at other theatres across central Oklahoma and seeing the dedication that the local artists have to producing quality work.  From the beautiful choreography of Oklahoma City Ballet to the creative sets at The Pollard Theatre, the people of Oklahoma can be proud of dedicated designers, performers and artists sharing their talents.  I consider it an honor to be a member of this gifted Oklahoma arts family.

 

See Jeffrey Meek’s latest creations in Lyric’s THE FANTSTICKS, April 6-24th at the Plaza Theatre.

Lyric at the Harn Homestead

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