This article was originally published October 2017.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Waitress supports the Susan G. Komen Greater NYC in solidarity with the cause. In addition to donating proceeds from pies sold during intermission, auctioning off signed costumes through CharityBuzz, and pushing the #WaitressPieChallenge on social media, the producers and director Diane Paulus decided to up the ante.
If you visit the Brooks Atkinson Theatre this month, you’ll see the waitresses of Joe’s Pie Diner have swapped the signature sky blue uniforms for pink ones onstage.
Waitress is not the only enterprise to “Think Pink” in October, but while football players swap out cleats and basketball players change socks, implementing a costume change on Broadway isn’t as easy as throwing a new dress on the hanger. “We chose the [original] blue very carefully, so we didn’t take the change for this month lightly,” says Paulus of the design by costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb. “All the designers were consulted because every time you make a change it has a knock-on effect—it’s the lighting, it’s this, it’s that. We saw pictures, we saw mock-ups, I consulted with my lighting designer, my set designer, my costume designer—all the creatives—and it was a very clear ‘yes.’”
Despite the creative considerations, this isn’t the first time Paulus has merged the world outside the four walls of the theatre with the world onstage. “We did it when I did Hair,” she explains. “We had certain protest signs in our curtain call, for marriage equality. When there is the right moment and it works with the values and the aesthetics of the show, more power to all of us for integrating the world we live in into the work we do.”
Still, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an event in our world, so how does that fit in with Jenna’s world in Waitress? “I think audiences can handle multiple realities,” says Paulus. “Audiences are very sophisticated these days, so the idea that they’re immersing themselves into this story [and] the audience knows their presence at the theatre this month is also related to this major women’s health issue is really potent. It’s a multi-layered response that enhances the audience’s experience.
“The beauty of live theatre is that it can breathe and respond and change with the world we’re living in,” says Paulus. “It’s what makes the theatre special.”