Little Women Opens Tonight at Purdue Fort Wayne
Updated: Apr 16
For many, the Louisa May Alcott classic Little Women is a beloved piece of literature, but it is also a favorite of film and stage fans. With its current production of the Broadway musical version of Little Women, Purdue Fort Wayne is putting music and acting front and center along with costumes which are such an important part of the visual aspect of the story. Costume designer Austin Rausch is bringing his significant talents to the show, not to mention his own affection for the story.
“This is such a wonderful production,” Rausch said. “The story itself is so special to me, and it’s timeless. It’s such a sweet story, and as a costume designer I don’t often get the opportunity to work on a historical play with historical costumes. I spent a lot of time working on the details so it’s been a lengthy process. But as a designer I love historical fashion so I jumped at the opportunity.”
Rausch said there are about 50 to 60 unique looks in the show, and after talking to the creative team – including director John O'Connell and costumer Jeanne Pendleton – about the look of the production, he began designing the costumes, some of which were made in house. But while part of the process is designing them, so too is finding costumes that already exist, making the production financially feasible. Relatively new to the area, that meant Rausch had to start making some contacts close to home.
“The biggest challenge was sourcing rentals,” he said. “I’m still fairly new to Indiana, My first year came after COVID so we didn’t really have productions, and this is my second year of shows since I joined the university. So I needed to start finding out ways of sourcing outside of the university. There was a lot of travel involved, but I found places in Tennessee, Alabama, and the Indiana Repertory Theatre. I made three separate trips with measurements in hand and my renderings and found a good amount of what we needed. Places are usually very generous with educational institutions.”
One additional connection Rausch made was with Siobian Jones at the Mighty Wig in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“This show needs a large amount of wigs, and as a costume designer, I know how important it is to have a good wig stylist. The wig rental I had recently used was out of business, and I was happy to find someone who was dedicated and excited to work with us. It’s great to find people who are passionate and care about the process.”
“I really enjoy the research phase, finding out who these people are,” he added. “It helps the performers who are telling a real story. In rehearsal it’s such a collaboration, and I love getting to collaborate with those performers and finding out how they see themselves in their roles. I love talking with them, finding out how they see their characters. When you see their faces light up, see it come to life for them, that’s the most fulfilling part. They feel supported and can see the work they put into their role come into the spotlight.”
Little Women runs through April 22 at Williams Theatre on the Purdue Fort Wayne campus. Tickets can be purchased at pfw.edu/tickets.