Marilyn Wall says that there is no higher compliment to her work than an actor never looking in the mirror. As the costume designer-in-residence at the Hippodrome Theatre, Marilyn has designed costumes for over 300 productions and dressed thousands of actors. To Marilyn, the trust that exists between the actor and the costume designer is a symbiotic relationship - it helps bring the character to life and informs her as an artist. As a costume designer, it is Marilyn’s job to produce what she calls “wearable art” - costumes that enhance and define the actor’s interpretation of a character and defines their experience on the stage.
Growing up, Marilyn never stayed in one place for long. As the daughter of a Navy pilot, her family moved every 2 years. But no matter where they went, Marilyn always had paper, paint, a dog, and a horse. Eventually her travels brought her to Gainesville, where she enrolled as an art student at the University of Florida. Along with her new friends (including college roommate and Hippodrome Producing Director Mary Hausch) she fell in love with theatre and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Marilyn found her true calling in a profession that combined her love of theatre and art to create “wearable art” for the stage.
Marilyn says that key to her success is “unconditional love and being able to fail.” Her artistic home at the Hippodrome gives her creative space to try new ideas and as she puts it “stretch her lines to the edges” of places she has never been to before in her art. Working with Mary Hausch and Hippodrome Artistic Director Lauren Caldwell, she has learned to paint together the artistic vision of the director with the actors’ portrayal of the characters that they are creating. This collaboration between director, designer and actor is the foundation of her artistic process. Director Lauren Caldwell says, “Marilyn is a risk taker - she is never safe. All great artists yearn to perform without a safety net. That is Marilyn in a nutshell.”
One of Marilyn’s favorite productions is A Christmas Carol, a story that is full of redemption and hope. “I love dressing the children in period clothing. I like to make every one of them feel like they are the most important person in the world.”
Marilyn is the winner of two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Television Craft Excellence for Make-up and Wardrobe. One of Marilyn’s favorite projects outside of her work at the Hippodrome was HGTV’s White House Christmas Special. Marilyn says, “The White House is a magnificent building that belongs to all of us. Every year they put up a 50 foot Christmas tree.” Marilyn was hired to do hair, wardrobe and makeup for the HGTV personalities, and she even powdered President Bush’s dog.
Over the course of her 40 year career, Marilyn has worked on many films, her favorite being Ulee’s Gold with Peter Fonda. She loved everything about the experience, from shooting outside, to learning about honeybees, to working with the well-known actors. Another career highlight was working as the makeup artist for Angelina Jolie, but her true love is working with the artists and actors at the Hippodrome theatre and bringing magic to the stage.
By Jessica Hurov. Photos by Michael A. Eaddy
Drawings byMarilyn Wall.