Prior to Her Tony-Winning Broadway Career, Costume Designer Paloma Young Was a Spy | Playbill

How Did I Get Here Prior to Her Tony-Winning Broadway Career, Costume Designer Paloma Young Was a Spy

Young is currently represented on Broadway with her designs for & Juliet and The Notebook.

Paloma Young Graphic by Vi Dang

Paloma Young—whose imaginative, Tony-nominated costumes for the hit jukebox musical & Juliet are on display nightly at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre—also designed the costumes for two of this past season's new productions.

Young designed costumes for The Notebook, the Ingrid Michaelson-Bekah Brunstetter musical at the Gerald Schoenfeld that is based on the Nicholas Sparks novel and charts the life-long love between Noah and Allie; and the short-lived musical Lempicka from Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer that follows Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, who flees with her husband from Russia to Paris, where she meets her muse Rafaela.

READ: In & Juliet, the Costumes Are Also Telling a Story of Female Empowerment

Young, it should be noted, won her Tony for Best Costume Design of a Play in 2012 for Peter and the Starcatcherand she was also Tony-nominated for her designs for the Josh Groban-led Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 in 2017. Her other Broadway credits include Bandstand, Time and the Conways, and Lobby Herowhile her work Off-Broadway includes Alice by Heart; Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow; The Pain of My Belligerence; Preludes; and Fly by Night. She was also Olivier-nominated for her designs for the London production of & Juliet.

Prior to the closing of Lempicka, in an interview for the Playbill series How Did I Get Here—spotlighting not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—Young shares her creation of the color palette for The Notebook, her most unusual day job, and how she has managed success in a career "not designed for parents."

Sketch of Anne Hathaway's wedding costume from & Juliet's final scenes Courtesy of Costume Designer Paloma Young

Where did you train/study?
Paloma Young: BA in U.S. History from UC Berkeley, MFA in Costume and Sound Design from UC San Diego.

Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor stand out?
My mentor, Judith Dolan, at UC San Diego. She introduced me to a lot of material that helped me find where my spark lay as an artist, and she helped me see myself as an artist first. She also showed me how to take abstract things I connected with, especially sound and music, and transform that to clothes.

Andrew Samonsky, Eden Espinosa, Zoe Glick, Natalie Joy Johnson, Amber Iman, George Abud, Beth Leavel, and Nathaniel Stampley Heather Gershonowitz

Tell me a bit about the decision to go for a more contemporary approach rather than a period approach for Lempicka.
I wouldn't necessarily classify the Lempicka costumes as contemporary, but heavily inspired by her paintings. [The design] takes elements of the 1920s and '30s and leans into the combo of classic draping and sharp, extreme angles of the clothes on her subjects as she rendered them. Tamara's work remains fresh, where many of her contemporaries' work seems decorative or goofy through a modern lens. We wanted to harness that freshness. Tamara should seem ahead of and outside of time. The ensemble around her represent an energy and velocity...players that are rushing in her head and memory as she races to tell her story... "Line, color, form."

Can you explain how you decided on the colors for Noah and Allie in The Notebook and how you use them throughout the musical?
In the script, Younger Noah tells Allie that he loves her in blue, so, of course, she's going to subconsciously fill her wardrobe with blue (and just "happen" to wear her hottest blue DVF dress to show up unannounced at his house). Allie is flowing passion, the air, the painter (the script used to specify watercolors—it's an art medium that is erasable, created with water and faded with it as well, like Allie's memories).

And then I loved Ingrid's sexy, evocative lyrics in "Forever"... "God, he smells good—just like wood in the rain." Noah is the carpenter, the earth, the solid, steady grounding element. He is consistent and persistent. The big challenge was how to make brown glow onstage, to represent those early things and also be theatrical.

For a long-running hit like & Juliet, what is a costume designer's ongoing responsibilities?
I'm expected to check in with cast replacements, and sometimes the clothes are just done, or they're replaced with a redesign if original elements are no longer available. And then sometimes I answer questions like this!

Maryann Plunkett, Joy Woods, and Jordan Tyson in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s world premiere production of The Notebookin Liz Lauren

If someone were to ask you to choose one costume from any production to put in a time capsule that is representative of your work, which would you pick and why?
One hundred percent impossible question! I love a costume that holds a story. Some standouts from what's running [and recently running] on Broadway

The Notebook: The lineup of the three Allies in time. They're not in the same outfit, but every element is in conversation with the others. When they sweep their hand over the water, they each wear a gold bracelet that catches the glints from the water: Younger in a 1960s charm bracelet, Middle in a small array of "artist's beads," and Older in a medical ID bracelet for Alzheimer's.

Lempicka: Amber Iman's Rafaela costume, a 1930s chiffon bias dress, split to reveal the lipstick pink slip underneath. A period garment, but worn/altered in an unconventional way. Her velvet coat is inspired by 19th-century military officer's coats. I imagine she's found something very old in a rag pile and blinged it up.

& Juliet: Romeo, hands down. I love an embellished jacket! And a flowy pink blouse with tight jeans and big boots.

Ben Jackson Walker, Oliver Tompsett, Maya Boyd, Betsy Wolfe, and Charity Angél Dawson in & Juliet Matthew Murphy

How did you get your first job in the theatre?
I was a theatre minor at UC Berkeley only because I took all the offered design classes. They didn't have a design specific major or a grad program, so they offered student design projects to anyone interested.

The last show they had me design was one usually designed by the Costume Design professor, but she was on sabbatical. I started the design as a student, but it opened a few months after I graduated, so they hired me as an independent contractor. It was 22 years ago, and I still remember that I got paid $2,000 (which felt like so much money to a 22 year-old in 2002!) and had the full support of the costume shop. I'm so grateful for that early experience of feeling valued and worthy of trust so early in my career.

What is the most memorable day job you ever had?
I was working as a researcher/"spy" for a financial consulting company while designing Peter and the Starcatcher on Broadway. When I got nominated for a Tony Award, I came into the office the next day, and they had a banana pudding celebration at lunch, but otherwise were very confused about what that meant. I worked there for another six months, and they basically begged me to stay because I was a very good financial spy!

Tell me about a job/opportunity you really wanted but didn’t get. How did you get over that disappointment?
I once got fired from a show I'd worked on in summer stock...meaning I was replaced when it transferred to a regional theatre with real support and a budget, nearly 100 times what I had been working with. I was hurt and frustrated because I had warned the producers that the budget was not enough to even do a sketch of a cohesive design, and they were telling me they didn't trust me with the larger budget because the "workshop" design was disappointing. I cried to my friends, and stewed, and shouted to the universe, "I told them this is exactly what was going to happen! They should trust me more!"

But I didn't burn bridges or go down in a flaming public tirade about how my effective rate for the show was less than $2 per hour. I just sort of let it pass. And then I got a job designing Bandstand at Paper Mill Playhouse, which basically tech-ed at the same time as the other show's regional premiere—I wouldn't have been able to do both. Bandstand transferred to Broadway, and the other show never did. In the many years since, I've worked with that director again and gained more confidence in myself, but also faith that sometimes the universe will bring the opportunities to you when it's the right time for you. I don't need to be designing all the shows all of the time.

What is your proudest achievement as a costume designer?
Continuing this work while being a mom. It's not an achievement I've accomplished on my own, and I'm grateful for every director, stage manager, producer, and company manager that has listened and adjusted to my needs. This career was not designed for parents. The expectations of flexibility and availability with a grueling tech schedule historically present a barrier to success in this field for anyone who wants to be a parent. I'm hoping that the conversations I have and the boundaries I set will help encourage and further lay groundwork for younger designers who would like to be both.

Photos: Maya Boyd in & Juliet on Broadway

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