Operating Status

Dance scene from Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.
Photography by James Devaney/Getty Images

One of the hits on the big screen during the holiday season was Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, the 1957 Broadway sensation that became an Oscar-winning film in 1961. The musical drama, a contemporary take on the romance of Romeo and Juliet that features the love between Tony and Maria, introduced the world to the music of Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. Like the earlier productions, Spielberg’s adaptation, written by Tony Kushner, features stunning costumes worn by the actors depicting members of the rival gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. Spielberg, who grew up listening to the cast album, enlisted Paul Tazewell, the Tony Award-winning costume designer for Hamilton. Tazewell turned to his frequent collaborator, Shane Ballard, who is a professor of costume design and illustration at Mason Gross School of the Arts where he teaches the emerging art of digital costume design. In the worlds of theater, film, and television, Ballard is known as a costume concept artist, someone who takes direction from the costume designer and visually communicates the designer’s ideas through illustrations. He got an early start at Marvel Comics designing action figures and then sketching costume ideas for movies and animated TV shows. Ballard went from toys and character concepts to designing clothes for stage and screen. The one constant for all theatrical forms? The need for a costume to reveal a deep understanding of the character.