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Ann Hoste: Bringing Inspiration To Life

Ann Hoste

Ann Hoste is one of those people who found the perfect job to bring her creative ideas to life -- almost literally. Hoste, who joined the University of Idaho Theatre Arts Department last fall, has been professionally designing theatre costumes since 1986 when she created the costumes for the production of The Quilters at the Zachary Scott Theatre Center in Austin, Texas.

 
Since then, she’s designed costumes for over 50 academic theatre productions and 70 professional productions.

“I took a position here this fall after 19 years as a professor at Boise State University. I love Moscow and the Palouse, and I’m happy that the opportunity arose to join a theatre department I’ve admired for years,” says Hoste.

Her interest in theatre began with an interest in acting, which developed into a love for costumes that inspired her to pursue an MFA in design at the University of Texas.

“Like so many theatre people, I began as an actor,” saiys Hoste. “My favorite role was Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I still enjoy acting, but rarely have the opportunity nowadays.”

The Theatre Department is certainly keeping her busy this spring. Drawing from her talent as a designer, Hoste is responsible for the costumes for the upcoming production of The Good Person of Szechuan by Bertolt Brecht.

In her interpretation of the play’s characters, the poor people of Szechuan wear the traditional Tangzhuang, and the prosperous businessmen wear the uniform of Western capitalism: business suits, neckties, and fedoras. Hoste discovered many examples of this “unusual juxtaposition” during her research of the Szechuan Province, and now faces the challenge of bringing that diversity to the stage.

“The primary challenge is to create a cheerful sense of poverty,” says Hoste. “Our production of Good Person is set in the 1930’s, a time of tremendous poverty when Chinese citizens were starving in the streets.”

In order to successfully convey this in her costume designs, Hoste went back to the basics. She reacquainted herself with the script and met with director David Lee-Painter to discuss his interpretation of the play.

“It’s my job as a designer to help the director achieve his or her vision for the play, it’s a collaborative process,” says Hoste. “I enjoy working with directors who know exactly how they want the audience to respond, and I love to work with directors who have no preconception about how to achieve that response. That gives me the artistic freedom I crave and the strong sense of direction I need to stay on track.”

Hoste said that her discussions with Lee-Painter guided her costume research, and his response to the research ultimately shaped her final vision for the costumes. She also collaborated with her student design assistant Lauren Hamilton, who is primarily designing the costumes for the three “gods” of the play.

Hoste’s costume renderings (the drawings she creates for each costume character, shown above) vary from project to project to reflect the world of the play, but for The Good Person of Szechuan her designs are rendered primarily in watercolor with a touch of colored pencil.  She also likes to create renderings in pen and ink.

“Renderings are a tool for communication. I use them to convey, as clearly as possible, what the costumes will look like in production,” says Hoste.

While working with smaller theatres, Hoste is responsible for building the costumes herself. At the University of Idaho, however, it’s a different story.

“I’m fortunate to work with a professional shop manager and enthusiastic theatre students who will bring my designs to life,” says Hoste.

As for the inspiration behind her pieces, Hoste referred to the late Broadway designer Patricia Zipprodt, who believed that everything that happens to us is a potential source of inspiration. For this play in particular, Hoste reflected on her interactions with homeless people in the past.

“I remember, in particular, an old woman who took shelter in the entranceway of an office building where I used to work,” says Hoste. “Every evening after my late-night shift, I’d step over her sleeping body to get to my car. I think of her now, as I design costumes for the homeless people of Szechuan.”

And Hoste enjoys every part of bringing those inspirations to life on stage.

“Perhaps it’s trite, but my favorite part about costume design is whatever part I’m working on at the moment. Research fascinates me. Rendering absorbs me. Fittings challenge me,” says Hoste. “And of course, I love to shop.”

The Good Person of Szechuan will be presented in the Hartung Theatre April 14-16 and 21-23 at 7:30 pm, and April 17 & 23 at 2 pm.