Suzette Azariah Gunn as Millie.
Photo by Jon Gardiner

Given Trouble in Mind‘s relevance to current issues today, its points prove more striking when we are reminded that it was written, and takes place in, the 1950s. Perhaps no element conveys the mid-century period more strongly and beautifully than Karen Perry‘s costume design.

This is not Karen’s first time working on Trouble in Mind. She, director Jade King Carroll and set designer Alexis Distler collaborated on a production at Two River Theater in New Jersey last spring, which also starred Roger Robinson as Sheldon Forrester. Karen and Jade came to discover this forgotten gem of a play through a project called 1Voice, 1Play, 1Day. The event organizes black theatres around the country to stage a reading of the same play on the same day to bring solidarity and celebrate African American theatre. Karen saw a reading of Trouble in Mind in Los Angeles at the same time that Jade saw it read in New York. It also happens that our own Kathy A. Perkins saw it the same day in Chicago. Karen and Kathy both credit 1Voice for the rebirth Alice Childress’ masterpiece has seen in the last few years. There is no doubt that it led to our own production since Jade and Karen immediately knew they wanted to produce the play together, and Kathy knew PlayMakers needed to bring the show here.

Despite having designed for Trouble in Mind before, Karen’s costumes for our production have their own unique look. When Karen begins her concepts, she designs only the shape and style of the costumes in advance. The fabrics are selected later on in the process, and she lets the materials decide the colors and details for each unique costume.

Below you can view her original renderings and see how they come to life on our stage.

Karen Perry’s design for Wiletta Mayer, as worn by Kathryn Hunter-Williams. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Al Manners, as worn by Schuyler Scott Mastain. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Millie Davis, as worn by Suzette Azariah Gunn. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Sheldon Forrester, as worn by Roger Robinson. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for John Nevins, as worn by Myles Bullock. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Judy Sears, as worn by Carey Cox. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Bill O’Wray, as worn by Jeffrey Blair Cornell. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Henry, as worn by David Adamson. Photo by Jon Gardiner.
Karen Perry’s design for Eddie Fenton, as worn by Jorge Donoso. Photo by Jon Gardiner.

Trouble in Mind is onstage through February 8. Click here to buy your tickets now!