SECONDHAND NEWS: Committed to sustainability as an individual, designer and business owner, Jussara Lee used that ideology as a rookie costume designer for “Inside the Wild Heart.”
Based on the writings of one of Brazil’s most famous writers, Clarice Lispector, the immersive theatrical experience was conceived by Andressa Furletti and Debora Balardini and directed by Linda Wise. The show bows Thursday in New York. Lee was initially approached by the Brazilian theater company Group.BR about helping to fund the production. She offered to pitch in with the cast’s attire instead.
Lee described Lispector’s work as “amazing,” but the project’s upcycling is what really sold her. Working with a low budget meant “that it was all about secondhand and vintage shopping. I was very interested in that and told them, ‘We’ll make adjustments. We’ll make things fit. That’s what we do best,’” said Lee, adding that she liked the idea of reusing “things that had already been extracted and polluted. There is so much clean-up to do and so much stuff in this world.””
In addition, the project forced her to switch up her usual routine and do some thrifting at Beacon’s Closet in Brooklyn and “all the other underlings.” It was also an opportunity to speak with people outside of her world. “I like to bring things into my orbit that aren’t so familiar. And to just experience all that that brings,” she said.
With the help of a few assistants, Lee dressed 11 actors for a total of about 30 characters. Offering her time pro bono, the designer said the costuming was labor intensive. With 11 optional experiences, “Inside the Wild Heart” is designed for multiple visits, since ticket holders choose which characters to follow, where to go, how much time to spend in each room and whether to be an observer or an active participant. Patrons also can choose to visit Aich Studio just to see the installations — without any performance. Off-hours, they can buy tickets to watch videos, hear audios and leave notes on the set’s art installations. “There are all these different objects that are part of the play so you can pause to be a little bit more meditative about the scenario. If you read the books, you have your imagination to pare or compare to what’s there. It’s fun,” she said.
Lee will also be part of the Oct. 23 “Beyond Fashion: Diversity and Sustainability” panel at the Chase Contemporary Gallery. Next month, Lee will be a keynote speaker at the ITAA’s “Re-Imagine the Renewable” conference in Cleveland, which will cater to Kent University academics, students and others. “It seems that 99 percent of people are not happy with what they do. Work takes so much time from your life. If you’re not happy with it, that’s a pretty difficult situation to be in. Basically, you’re letting your life wash through bays of disappointment and frustration,” she said.
Before the holidays, Lee expects to have a hand-me-up and creative mending party in her store to encourage people to repurpose clothing rather than buy new items. “A lot of people could use this service and it could make them pause and think, ‘Oh yeah, I have these clothes that I don’t use much.’ Hopefully, that same idea will trickle into the other activities in their lives,” she said. “Let’s stop this craziness and wake up to the fact that there is this intrinsic relationship with nature that we completely disregard. “