Cirque costumer got early start in vocation

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Jordyn Campbell’s love for costumes was born early on in her life.

Campbell taught herself to sew at the age of 11.

That provided her with the necessary knowledge to make costumes for theatrical productions at high school.

Now, Campbell finds herself overseeing over 1,000 costumes as the head of wardrobe for Cirque de Soleil’s “Luzia,” which sets itself up under a tent in Hartford starting June 19.

Press materials from Cirque du Soleil explains, “Luzia’ takes you to an imaginary Mexico… Audiences (are invited) to escape on a surrealistic journey through a sumptuous and vibrant world suspended somewhere between dreams and reality.”

Campbell said she always loved theater. But she was never interested in being in the spotlight as an actor. For Campbell, the joy was always lurking behind the scenes of a show.

“Theater is such a collaborative art,” said Campbell, noting all of the elements, such as wardrobe, need to be in place for a show to be whole.

That community effort behind live theater performance won Campbell’s heart.

Campbell also enjoys the live aspect of theater. Unlike film or television, where if something goes wrong you can always redo it, when something goes awry in live theater, you have to find solutions on the fly.

Although Campbell had a love for wardrobe and theater, she said joining the Cirque du Soleil family was never on her radar.

Her arrival with the circus troupe was due to a comment by her mother.

As she was wrapping up her theater degree, Campbell said she was pondering what to do next in her life.

“You could work at Cirque du Soleil,” Campbell’s mom suggested.

Campbell dismissed the comment at first. She figured Cirque du Soleil was way out of her league.

But Campbell applied for an internship anyway.

And she got it.

Now she finds herself in charge of the costumes of “Luzia” as the show makes its way across the country.

Campbell said her job as head of wardrobe requires her to be a “jack-of-all-trades.” She has to know about shoes, puppets, wigs, makeup, working with natural fibers, and working with man-made fabrics.

Most importantly, especially on a circus show, she has to understand the safety elements of the costumes. For instance, there is a lot of water on stage in scenes involving performers, and she has to understand how the costumes interact with the water.

For Campbell, “Luzia,” with its themes of Mexican folklore and settings in Mexico, is wardrobe heaven.

“Our costumes are so varied, so colorful, so energetic,” said Campbell, who is one of three full time staffers who travels with the show. She can work on pinstripe suits and giant swordfish heads.

“I love the whole scope (of the wardrobe),” said Campbell.

Sometimes what the audience sees on stage seems simple, but Campbell said looks can be deceiving.

For instance, she said, in one of the stunts involving a Chinese pole. The performers come out in jackets and high-waisted pants. Underneath, they are wearing stretch denim with a lizard print and eye that look like a chameleon. And beneath that they are wearing leotards to help protect them from the friction of holding onto the polls.

“It all has a purpose,” said Campbell.

For someone who loves theater wardrobe, Cirque du Soleil is always a learning experience. And although the process of preparing the different shows under the Cirque du Soleil brand will vary, everything is a well-oiled machine.

Performances of “Luzia” by Cirque du Soleil from June 19 to July 21 are Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 1:30 and 5 p.m. Shows are under a tent at Market Street in Hartford.

For more information and tickets, go to CirqueduSoleil.com.

One of the challenges for costumers of Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Luzia’ is the unique use of water on stage during the performances. The costumes have to be hand-dried after each show. Here, a trapeze artist performs. ‘Luzia’ comes to Hartford June 19 to 23.

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