On the Spot: David Kaley

July 12, 2012

The Addams Family came to life as characters in cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, penned by macabre genius Charles Addams. The kooky clan, immortalized on TV and in movies, also has the ultimate mark of fame: a Broadway musical. With “The Addams Family” in town for a short run at the Kennedy Center, associate costume designer David Kaley discussed the family’s look and Morticia’s dress.

What did you look at when you started designing the costumes?

This production came out of the cartoons from the New Yorker. We didn’t want it to feel like the movie[s]. We didn’t want it to feel like the TV show. We really wanted to go back to the source material.

How did you get the cartoon look?

There’s a hand-painted quality to a lot of the clothes. There’s a hand-drawn feel we try to incorporate. The clothes are painted or dyed or embroidered so they feel more like the drawings.

Was it hard to redesign something so familiar to so many people?

The look for the family is so iconic. We felt a responsibility to make sure that when the lights come up, you know exactly who they are.

How hard is it, exactly, for Morticia to walk in that dress?

It’s not as tricky as you might think, but it takes a little theatrical magic and a lot of coordination and talent on the part of our Morticia. But I’ve never seen a Morticia go down.

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; through July 29, $39-$115; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom)
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