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These UNC students are creating a monster

A group of UNC students is forming a special connection to Frankenstein’s monster. UNC’s graduate costume production program is collaborating with the noted Tom Spina Designs firm to create a version of Frankenstein’s creature that will be controlled via a mobile app. The creation will be on display at Escape Velocity, a celebration of innovation held by the Museum of Science Fiction, near Washington, D.C., in May.

“We are just in the preliminary stages” of the project, says Jennifer Guadagno, assistant costume director at PlayMakers’ Repertory Company/UNC, who’s is leading the project. While Tom Spina Designs — which specializes in movie sculptures, masks and mannequins — is creating the monster’s head and hands based on the monster from the 1931 Boris Karloff film, UNC students will create the creature’s costume, as well as perhaps a dress for a model of Mary Shelley. “These kind of construction techniques are what the graduate students in our program are practicing every day,” Guadagno says.

This isn’t the first project the UNC team has created for the Museum of Science Fiction in Alexandria, Va. Greg Viggiano, the museum’s executive director, said the museum had a team based in North Carolina two and a half years ago and through word of mouth began to collaborate with the UNC group. Since then, the UNC program has created several costumes for the museum’s permanent collection: a stewardess uniform from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a Neo costume from “The Matrix” and a stillsuit from “Dune.”

“Amazing work … has come out of that program at UNC,” Viggiano says.

Replica costumes from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” left, and “The Matrix” by UNC students. (Courtesy of the Museum of Science Fiction)

“Our reputation for training highly skilled drapers and craftspeople along with UNC’s connection to Playmakers made us an ideal choice for them,” Guadagno says. She adds she hopes the students will have the Frankenstein project ready to ship out in April, in time for Escape Velocity.

The event, which will take place over Memorial Day weekend in National Harbor, Md., celebrates “all things science and science fiction,” Viggiano says. It will mark the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” from the arts perspective and explore scientific innovation — as well as “maybe not a science … [but] the quasi-science, the future science of reanimation,” Viggiano says.

For now the students are hard at work. “Perhaps the biggest challenge comes with dressing mannequins,” Guadagno says. “Some thought has to be put into how to get clothes on a form that isn’t as flexible as the human body.”

Most of the students and staff have read Shelley’s groundbreaking novel. They’re also looking at several  film adaptations, as well as research from the period.

“There are some valuable insights there that we are now just thinking about,” Guadagno says.

Want to see the UNC students’ work? Escape Velocity is May 25-27, Marriott Gaylord Hotel, National Harbor, Md. For a 20% discount use the promo code, METRO20.


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