Sherry Ostendorf is the costume designer for Portland Actors Ensemble’s 2014 Touring production of

A Midsummer Night’s Dream



Hello to you all!  It’s time for another Quince’s Queries, an interview series with the cast and crew of Portland Actors Ensemble’s 2014 Shakespeare in the Park touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  You can find our show schedule, with dates, times and locations, as well as a fabulous study guide prepared by our director, Douglas Lay.  Our production is unique in that it features over 36 students from Portland and Washington State schools, who play some of the fairies in our show!  We perform again this Saturday and Sunday at Fernhill Park in Portland, with both shows beginning at 3pm.


Today I was able to spend a few moments with Sherry Ostendorf, the fabulous costume designer for our production.  Sherry’s costume work was also featured last season in our summer production of Cymbeline, and she is also an Administrative member of the PAE Board of Directors.


I asked Sherry to take us through some of her process she went through in creating the look of the costumes used in the show, and other insights into preparing the lovely pieces that we are fortunate enough to wear onstage!


(Athena McElrath—AM) What was your inspiration for the lovely costumes you’ve created for A Midsummer Night’s Dream?


(Sherry Ostendorf—SO) I always listen to the director and his vision for my initial inspiration. Then, I key in on the language and the descriptions of what they visualize. Words that inspired me for this production were summery, boggy, earthy, tribal, fierce and playful. I wanted to emphasize the difference between the “real” world and the fairy world. The lovers are very light and ethereal and pastel in color – kind of clean and shiny. The mechanicals are very real and a bit grubby. The fairy world is fanciful and earthy and mischievous. I was directly inspired by something I saw at Cirque de Soleil (for Puck and for integrating Oberon’s and Puck’s looks) and by my own vision of a retro Cape Cod wedding (for the lovers).


Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries:  A Portland Actors Ensemble Interview with Actor Matthew Sunderland

Lover’s Quartet:  left to right:  Hermia (Mariel Sierra), Lysander (David Bellis-Squires), Demetrius (Matthew Sunderland) and Helena (Tara Hershberger).  Photo by Rio


Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries Interview with costume designer Sherry Ostendorf


Mechanical Petra Quince (Athena McElrath)  Photo by Tim Young


Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries interview with costume designer Sherry Ostendorf

Mechanical Tom Snout (Tobin Gollihar)  Photo by Tim Young

Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries interview with costume designer Sherry Ostendorf

Mechanicals (left to right) Tom Snout (Tobin Gollihar) and Flute (K. J. McElrath) Photo by Tim Young

Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries interview with Costume Designer Sherry Ostendorf

Mechanicals Snug the Joiner (Curtis Hanson) and the arms of Nick Bottom (Michael Godsey)



Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries Interview with Costume Designer Sherry Ostendorf


 Puck (Kate Belden) and Oberon (Patrick Cox)  Photo by Tim Young


(AM) How many costumes did you create for this production, and how long did it take to make them?


(SO) We made about 20 or so costume pieces, plus garlands, and untold alterations. I think in just the sewing, there were over 400 hours. For a show like this that is one-third to one-half built, the shopping can take more hours than the design and stitching. I personally spent far more time shopping than stitching for this show, while Kimberly Hergert (Costume Assistant) did a great deal of the stitching.


Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries interview with costume designer Sherry Ostendorf

 When worlds collide:  Mechanical Nick Bottom’s (Michael Godsey) transformation with Titania (Jennifer Elkington)  Photo by Tim Young


(AM) How did your research for A Midsummer Night’s Dream influence your designs for the show?


(SO) I had some pretty strong ideas prior to researching for Oberon (Patrick Cox) and Titania (Jennifer Elkington), but I relied on some lucky online shopping searches for some of the others. For Demetrius’ (Matthew Sunderland) green seersucker-striped suit – I knew I wanted a seersucker suit – the green was a lucky surprise.


Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries interview with costume designer Sherry Ostendorf

Titania (Jennifer Elkington)  Photo by Tim Young



(AM) Is there anything else you’d like to add that I’ve not asked? Please do so!


(SO) So much of the design is influenced by things that evolve in the rehearsal process – not just aesthetically, but practically. Double casting, gags, physicality, the individual actors’ movements and interpretations all influence and change my initial design ideas. I often find, like in writing, a character will take me where he or she wants to go with his or her look rather than me steering that process. If you listen to what the design concept is at the beginning of the production process, you’ll hear it really evolve by the end. Not a lot of people know or understand that, but it’s something I embrace and enjoy. One needs to possess a high tolerance for ambiguity in this job. 


Thanks so much, Sherry!


So come join us this weekend!  See the show schedule for Portland Actors Ensemble’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and come check it out for yourself!  Playing now through Labor Day at various parks throughout Portland, Oregon, and free to the public, with donations gratefully and graciously accepted.  We also have a brilliant study guide prepared for this show by our wonderful director, Douglas Lay.


More Quince’s Queries for A Midsummer Night’s Dream coming up soon!


Have any questions about A Midsummer Night’s Dream?  We’d love to hear about it down in the comments, so feel free to stop by and say hi!


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Till next time,

Take pains; be perfect; adieu!

DCFC0486.JPGAthena McElrath is an actor and singer who is also an Administrative Board member with Portland Actor’s Ensemble.  She helps PAE with social media and educational outreach.  She often works onstage with her husband, K.J. McElrath, in their cabaret act, called McElrath Cabaret, which features songs from classic Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley.  For more: