An Interview with Elisabetta Polito

You’ve almost certainly seen Elisabetta [Lisa] Polito’s work in the last few years: she’s brought her considerable talent in costume design to Boston, and has designed, among many others, Stones in His Pockets, Water by the Spoonful, and Time Stands Still, here at the Lyric Stage!

Below, you can check out a quick interview with Elisabetta about her work and about Into the Woods, and take a look at her fabulous designs for the show, which opens May 9! Click any image to enlarge.

A sketch drawing of Rapunzel and her costume
Rapunzel. Design by Elisabetta Polito.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started working as a costume designer? 

I was about to graduate with my Design Art degree and I had made a dress out of metal mesh for my graduation exhibit. My teachers, at the time, kept on telling me I should go into Theatre (I thought they were crazy), and honestly the idea of starting a second bachelor’s degree psyched me out. At the exhibit everyone fell for the dress and general consensus was I should design costumes.

Needless to say, I auditioned for a spot in the Theatre Program and I started my second degree in Theatre design, but sigh –  I still wasn’t feeling it. I struggled a lot, going back and forth, not sure if this was what I wanted to do with my life. In 2007 I saw Wicked in London, and I am not sure what happened, sitting out in balcony, but I fell in love with the magic and that’s when I really decided to fully commit to this career. I moved here, from Montreal, in 2008 to do my Master’s degree at Brandeis, graduated in 2011 and here I am…trying to rock out Boston Theatre, one show at a time.

Q: Tell us about Into the Woods! How have you and director Spiro Veloudos established the aesthetic of the show?

A sketch drawing of Jack and his costume
Jack. Design by Elisabetta Polito.

I love this musical! A fantastical world where fairy tale characters, all written at different points in time, in different parts of the world and yet all coexist on one platform. Spiro and I quickly decided we wanted to do something different, taking period silhouette’s and contemporary fashions and giving the world a little edge.

Q. Are there things about the show that drew you to it? I know we’re playing up the “darkness” of the piece. 

Everyone, to a certain degree, plays the villain. I love, love, love villains. How they go about to get what they want is most intriguing. All these fairytales are dark stories that are meant to teach lessons to children but they are lessons that apply to us, as adults. It’s the seven deadly sins with a couple of dance numbers. Darkness.

Q: What’s been the most challenging part of the process so far?

So far, I really can’t complain. Things have been going smoothly (I think I just jinxed myself!). Every process is different. I like challenging myself by outdoing my last show and setting a standard for the next one. I guess I’m the challenging part of the process.

Q: How does this show compare to other shows you’ve worked on?

A sketch drawing of the witch  and her costume
The Witch. Design by Elisabetta Polito.

A lot more details. A lot of costume building. If I can’t find it, I tend to build it so this show has a lot of original pieces in comparison to other shows I have designed. Oufffa! Why I do this to myself is still a wonder!

Q: Do you have a favorite costume or two from the show?

Don’t get me wrong: I am partial to all the costumes but, oh my gosh – The Witch’s second outfit. (pictured at right) I almost cried in the fitting. Aimee Doherty looks ridonk fabulous. That’s all I have to say about that.

Q: Is there a show that you haven’t yet worked on that you’d love to work on?

All of them. I am still new to the theatre scene so I say – bring it on!

More Costume Designs:

A sketch drawing of a step sister and her costume
Stepsister. Design by Elisabetta Polito
A sketch of the wolf and his costume
The Wolf. Design by Elisabetta Polito.
A sketch of the baker and his costume
The Baker. Design by Elisabetta Polito.
A sketch of the bakers wife and her costume
The Baker’s Wife. Design by Elisabetta Polito.