I’m always eager to ask costume designers where they look for inspiration. I did not spare Kaye Voyce – who did the costumes on Greater Clements – that question. “I looked at documentary photography,” she told me the other day, as we examined Clements costumes on racks in the backstage Newhouse dressing rooms. “And photo-journalism. A lot of small-town newspapers are now online. They have great pictures – a Lions Club luncheon, Teachers Day at the local high school: things like that.”

Voyce, whose previous work at LCT includes Marys SeacoleThe Mystery of Love & Sex, and 4000 Miles, talked to me about Edmund Donovan, who in Greater Clements plays Joe. “Of all the actors in the play, he’s the one who looks the most different out-of-costume. He’s actually a super-cool, handsome, young actor. We had a great fitting with him. He loved putting on the things we gave him.” Among the items were some over-sized shorts, which resemble one of the documentary-photo inspirations included in this blog posting.

“I imagine that when Joe came back to his small Idaho town, after time in Alaska, he pulled a box of clothing out of his closet, including the shorts. Joe’s not comfortable in his own body, so the clothing reflects that.” 

As for the uniform that Donovan wears when Joe gives a tour of the town’s defunct mine, Voyce said: “His mining coveralls are vintage, bought on Etsy.” (You can see a version of them on one of the Voyce’s inspirational images included here.)

The character of Kel, a 14-year-old girl, also experiences discomfort. Voyce said: “Davis and I” – Davis McCallum directed the production – “decided that Kel is not confident enough in herself to be very stylish. She’s trying not to call too much attention to herself. That’s why she wears a standard-issue hoodie.” 

Though some of the Greater Clements costumes have a thrift-store look, most weren’t acquired second-hand. According to Voyce, most of the clothing is new. “On this production, we have a complete understudy cast. That makes it difficult to do a lot of vintage, because we need that complete second set of costumes for the understudies.” What’s more, Voyce said, “in this show, the colors and textures are very specific, not only with the clothing but regarding the set. Matching vintage items given all these variables would be too challenging.”

Some of Voyce’s design process for Greater Clements and its small-town setting was instinctive. She went to high school in small-town Wisconsin, before alighting to Gotham for her BFA and MFA in costume design from NYU. “My small town,” Voyce said, “was quite suspicious of change and of outsiders and of local residents who wanted to leave and live far away.”

Voyce and I finished our interview with a discussion of Judith Ivey, who in Greater Clements plays Maggie. “Judy,” Voyce said, “is a much more chic woman than Maggie is. Yet we’ve taken idea of things and proportions that Judy wears in life and translated them into a Maggie world.” Voyce and I turned our attention to a colorful print sweater-jacket hanging on the dressing-room rack. “Maggie definitely likes colorful prints. And prints showed up a lot in the photo research we did for this show.” (See the relevant photo with this blog posting.)

That research, Voyce added,” was helpful but not determinative. “With this show, as with most shows, I do a lot of research and then put the research away and let the collaborations – with director, writer, set designer, and actors – guide me.”

Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com