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Long, William Ivey (b. ca 1947)  
 
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When James died in 1978, Long needed a job. He crafted designer dolls that Wasserstein and Rudnick helped him sell. Another friend from Yale, Karen Schulz, the set designer for a 1978 revival of Nikolai Gogol's The Inspector General, suggested that Long be hired to do costume designs for the production, and his brilliant career was launched.

Costume Designer

In 1979 Long's work on Walton Jones's The 1940s Radio Hour earned him a Drama Desk Award nomination, the first of many accolades that he would receive.

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Long believes that a costume should be "invisible"--"so appropriate that you see the person and not the costume." He has stated that "the worst thing on earth you can do as a costume designer is have the costumes wear the person."

To that end, he studies the script and compiles reference materials in preparation for meetings with the director and sometimes also with the playwright. He next makes sketches to offer for their approval.

When he showed his ideas for the over 300 costumes needed for Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's Hairspray (2002), John Waters, on whose 1988 film the musical was based, stated that "it was the most professional, beautifully drawn, well-prepared presentation I've ever seen. When he presented the drawings, everyone was moaning in ecstasy."

Long gives meticulous attention to crafting every garment, scouring costume shops and fabric houses for the right materials, and also observing the actors who will be wearing the clothes. By studying their body language both during rehearsals and while they are not performing, he is able to create costumes that are precisely appropriate for the character and the person playing the role.

Long does three fittings for each of the costumes--of which there are often hundreds--in a show. He first works with the fabric on a dummy, then on the actor, and finally he has a second fitting with the actor to tailor the costume exactly.

Color is a crucial element in Long's designs. In his Broadway debut, Maury Yates's Nine (1982), he used all black costumes that contrasted with the white set. The stark color scheme, he said, "heightened the presentational stylization of the piece and made the whole thing feel like a film noir." The striking apparel earned him his first Tony Award for Best Costume Design and also the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design.

Long faced a different challenge with the "Technicolor" set of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls (1992). He put leading man Nathan Lane in black so that "you [could] find the main character in front." He used bright colors--including orange and magenta--to make secondary characters "disappear" into the vivid set.

For the second act, he used similar but darker costumes "to pull the intensity down" for a night scene. The difference was successful but so subtle that, he noted with amusement, even some of his friends did not realize that there were two sets of garments.

In other productions his costumes have been anything but subtle. For Stephen Sondheim's Frogs (2004), Alex Witchel noted, Long "gave the chorus girls in Hell headdresses that flamed up like cigarette lighters."

Long's costumes have set the style and mood in a wide variety of productions, including Sir Noël Coward's Private Lives (1992), John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse's Chicago (1996), Kander and Ebb's Cabaret (1998), Meredith Willson's The Music Man (2000), Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles (2004), and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire (2005).

For the wit, creativity, and artistry of his costumes, Long has won four Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards and has earned other nominations for both on numerous occasions.

Long was chosen by the National Theatre Conference as its Person of the Year in 2000 and was honored with the Legend of Fashion Award by the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003. He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in January 2006. He had far exceeded the five Broadway credits required for consideration: he had fifty, with more projects in the works.

As well as doing costumes for New York productions, Long often outfits touring companies. In one year, he noted, he costumed the troupes for an American tour of Cabaret and for tours of Chicago in Australia, Vienna, Stockholm, and Holland.

Long has made few forays into Hollywood, but among them was Susan Stroman's film version of Mel Brooks's The Producers (2005), which called for a daunting 7,000 costumes.

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