Behold, the majestic naked mole rat: wrinkled, pink, and toothy. While most people see little inspiring about this unique creature, costume designer Sydney Dufka chose to be true to the animal when creating pieces for OCT’s production of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience.
I really tried to make it as ‘realistic naked mole rat’ as possible,” she explains. “I didn’t want to put too much of a spin on it. I really went right to the natural, organic shapes, and finding the right kind of textures and materials that could be mole rat skin was important.”
Sydney also found inspiration in Mo Willems’ work itself. “Grasping that picture book quality, that is such a driving force in the art. Capturing the author’s sense was really important to me. When he wrote the script, he had a clear idea of what these creatures looked like, so I wanted to give that the correct life.”
An Oregon native, Sydney grew up on the coast in Arch Cape. She became involved with Oregon Children’s Theatre first through the Acting Academy classes, then joined the Young Professionals Company. Her interest in costume design began with the OCT production of Alice & Wonderland: A Rock Opera, where she worked as the YP Apprentice under costume designer Sarah Gahagan.
Sydney attended DePauw University where she earned a BFA in Costume Design, and plans to pursue a Masters Degree in her future. When she’s not designing, she works at Portland Center Stage as the Assistant to the Costume Shop Manager.
Sydney’s designs began to take shape in the form of paper dolls, something she’d been hoping to incorporate into her work for a long time. “I love paper dolls, and this was the first show I’ve designed where that idea really worked because you have the ‘natural’ bodies with the ‘unnatural’ clothing pieces going on top.”
In the story of Wilbur, the naked mole rat, he discovers a hat in his tunnel and dares to try it on. Naked mole rats are naked, so clothing is foreign to them. This idea of discovering something so new also resonated with Sydney: “Finding vibrant and luxurious pieces, clothing you’d want to touch and put on,” she says, “they don’t have in that world, so that was a big part of the design as well.”
So what is Sydney’s favorite look in the show? “The sequin jacket and the bowler hat are pretty fabulous!”
We agree, Sydney. Check out all of Sydney’s amazing designs in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience, opening January 19, 2019.