Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Getting To Know You: Denise R. Warner

Have you ever looked at the beautiful dresses, strapping coats, and crazy wigs you see on the Orlando Shakes stages and wondered where they come from? You’d probably be surprised to know that three quarters of them are designed, drafted, draped, and built by our very own Costume Shop. In this edition of our Getting To Know You series, we’re going behind-the-scenes to where actor becomes character with our Costume Shop Manager, Denise R. Warner.

Denise R. Warner, Costume Shop Manager

Denise’s Favorite Shakespeare Play: King Lear
Denise’s Favorite Show Seen At Orlando Shakes: Macbeth, Spring 2008
Denise’s Most Anticipated Show This Season: The Taming of the Shrew

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As a long time designer, it’s interesting to learn that Denise originally went to college to study directing and stage management. She began designing during her junior year after being placed in a work-study program in the costume shop simply because she could sew. Throughout the next few decades, Denise dabbled in her many passions including directing, design, and education. She ran a high school drama program, graduated with an MFA in Design from Pennsylvania’s Lock Haven University, and took on plenty of freelance work. Denise returned to Florida in 2001, just in time for the opening of the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. She was hired as a draper at Orlando Shakes and the rest, she says, “is history”.


As a self-proclaimed workaholic, Denise describes her relationship with her work as a “labor intensive love affair”. She and seven other full-time employees team up each season to create every look audiences will see on stage throughout the year. Conversations with designers and directors, multiple fittings, and countless hours of cutting and sewing are crammed into a 2-3 week period before the first dress rehearsal. Even items like tights, petticoats, padding, and laundering must be created or accounted for as the initial design becomes a costume – but what about transforming the actor’s hair and facial features?

In general, over a quarter of Orlando Shakes’ productions require some sort of wig, hairpiece, facial hair, prosthetic, or special effect. During this ambitious season, that percentage will skyrocket. Denise and her team must turn 30 actors into 150 different characters in The Life & Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, outfit Dracula with his fangs and stage blood, and create 3 little snouts and one very hairy wolf in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. With a single wig costing about $125, the Orlando Shakes Costume Shop will need help to make these actors look great on stage, so we recently launched our new Power2Give campaign to assist them in this tremendous undertaking. Orlando Shakes employees even banned together by dressing up in awful wigs for the promo video! Click the link above to watch it and to learn how you can help Denise and her staff this season.

As an audience member, I’m really looking forward to admiring the little details and the many different hairstyles I’ll see on stage this year. I hope you found this inside look at our Costume Shop as insightful as I did. Until next time!

Shakespearely Yours,
Melissa Landy
Public Relations Coordinator, Orlando Shakespeare Theater


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