This International Women’s Day we're celebrating a Dio Old Girl, and current staff member, Chantelle Gerrard.
On International Women’s Day, we celebrates the foresight, persistence, tenacity, hard-work, achievements and successes of women around the world – past and present.
At Dio, we are fortunate to have had the opportunity to assist, support and nurture the dreams and aspirations of many young women throughout the years, and are particularly proud of the successes of former students. One such Old Girl is Chantelle Gerrard, who just recently returned to Dio to join our Creative Industries Faculty.
Chantelle is a costume designer, who comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience both nationally and internationally. Chantelle has been designing and constructing costumes for NZ Opera, Billy Elliot for the Auckland Theatre Company, nine years of Tim Bray shows, and taking the Pop Up Globe to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, as well as living in Ireland and the UK where she constructed costumes for Game of Thrones, the Marian and designed Mary Stuart in London.
She has also been designing and making costumes for Dio for the last three years across Senior, Junior High School and Junior School performances. Yes that's right, we’ve had a Game of Thrones costume designer planning and making our school production costumes.
Her most recently work was with the Pop Up Globe in Auckland since its inception in 2015. Sadly the Pop Up Globe will be closing its doors this year; however, its final production ‘Emelia’ is a triumph celebrating the diversity of women around the world. Chantelle has held the responsibility of Head of Wardrobe Department for all seasons of this show.
‘Emelia’ is based on the real-life story of Emilia Bassano, who despite being a poet in her own right has mostly been remembered for being the muse behind Shakespeare's Dark Lady. It was written two-years ago by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm who insisted the casting an all-female ensemble. It has been performed at both the Globe and London’s West End to critical acclaim – being nominated for 3 Oliver Awards. This truly New Zealand version of the play – with its unique Maori and Pasifika content, New Zealand vernacular and nods to different cultures that create this beautiful country in which we live, will be ‘Emelia’s’ International Debut.
Chantelle describes her thinking behind the costume design of ‘Emelia’…
“The costume design is quite conceptual. Due to the nature of the play, 3 Emelia’s at different stages of her life stay on the stage most of the time – they have a unity with a rich maroon colour that symbolises many things and reflects the ‘anger’ that she says she wears on the outside in her final speech and are the only characters that have a ‘red’ as their colour on stage in the play. Their costumes are solid – they are not like the other females and they are a stylised version of the time period.
Emelia is about a world of oppression for women – she talks about the ‘faces’ that we wear, the layers we put on to cover our true selves. With this I took the idea of the paper dolls that you would play with as a child and dress the same cardboard cut-out in, giving them different looks and persona’s and created ‘apron’ dresses that cover the actress’s brightly colour underclothes that consist of Bloomers and liberty print corsets – flashes of their ‘persona’ – the layers underneath can be seen from the back as the actresses go about their actions. The apron dresses are for every female character but the Emelia’s. They are outlined in black as if they are an illustration and it is only the river women that are allowed some colour in their dresses as these are the females that help Emelia to start to become her true self, yet they all still conform to the carbon copy female form in the show.
The male characters are different as they are ‘suited and booted’. They are the solid people within this world as they are the dominant people in this world. All the women have a uniform length to their skirts to complete the ‘doll’ look and bare feet instead of shoes are two fold as it is both oppressive and freeing at the same time.”
I would encourage you all to go see this play. The script, the emotion, the issues that it exposes to us are incredibly thought provoking and relevant to today’s climate. It is a play that celebrates diversity in body size and abilities, and highlights ‘women of colour’ especially within not only the main character’s story but also the actresses represented on stage.
It has been a very special ending to the last five years of my life doing this show, and being allowed such creative freedom through the direction of Miriama McDowell and Morgan’s writing has been an absolute pleasure and I have nothing but thanks and love for the cast and crew of this very wonderful play.”
We congratulate and celebrate Chantelle for all she has achieved and encourage all women around the world to keep paving strong and sustainable pathways.
Happy International Women’s Day!