Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle...and Costume Design

by Heisenberg Costume Designer Shannon Heibler

Rosy cheeked and sore footed, I was greeted by Company Manager Par Excellence, Celia Klehr, as I returned from my adventures across downtown Madison. “Shouldn’t you be in there?” She pointed towards the theater. “Nope, shopping.” “What do you need?” “I have an idea but don’t know for sure. Won’t know it until I see it. Nowhere in walking distance has it. Whatever “it” is.” She laughed warmly (she’s so good at that!) and patted me on the shoulder as I trudged back inside to return to Heisenberg tech. Georgie Burns (played by Colleen Madden) was still missing something.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle tells us that if you closely examine an object (say a particle doing something I personally do not comprehend, or a production hurtling toward opening night, which I totally get), you cannot tell exactly how quickly it is moving. There is a danger in design of focusing so intently on your work that you lose track of what it needs to be. There is, as in the Uncertainty Principle, a fundamental constraint. It’s easy to lock into an idea and lose all track of the momentum of a production. When you look up from your perfect costume (or prop, light cue, etc.), it could no longer be right for the show. That might sound frustrating but embracing it is a freeing joy. Theater is a living, breathing art form, and collaborative to boot. I’ve loved loosening my grip on my craft and letting my excellent colleagues help illuminate the path with their work. I feel great about the costumes I have on stage but know I may walk into a store tomorrow and finally find that certain something to complete Georgie’s look or the answer might even be to remove a piece. I know where we’re at - still more work to do - which means I don’t know how quickly we’ll get where we need to be. But I have faith we’ll get there together. I look forward to you joining us there.