Interview with Plays by Young Writers Costume Designer, Jordyn Smiley

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley teaches Fashion and Costume at San Diego Mesa College. She has built costumes for The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Two River Theater, and Disney Imagineering. Previous costume designs include Romeo, Romeo & Juliet, 2017 and 2018 Plays by Young Writers, The Jungle Book, Crimes of the Heart, Assassins, Glorious Ones, and All Shook Up.

jordyn wruffs gift
Jordyn on the Opening Night of 2018’s Plays by Young Writers Festival

What’s your vision for this year’s plays?

My vision for this year’s plays is to create characters that help tell the playwright’s stories.  I want to be true to the playwrights’ intents, and allow the costumes to accentuate their idea of who each character is.

Describe a few images that come to mind when you’re conceptualizing the costumes for this year’s plays. 

For Trash, I envisioned a junk drawer of sorts. A place where we tend to put the odds and ends in our life that we forget about.  The half-finished post-it notes, the old charging cables, an old chapstick, or a plastic toy from the dollar store.  For Sea of Fog, I found that I kept coming back to an image of a dark courtyard with a layer of mist on the ground.  None of these images are very costume-related, but to me they all conveyed a core reaction that I wanted the audience to feel when they saw the characters on stage.

Jordyn’s design concept for the character of Rusty

What questions did you ask about the characters as you started to visualize them?

I started with the typical character questions such as how old they were, what season is it, where is the action taking place, etc.  Then I went further into each character and asked what do they want in the play, what kind of a life have they had until now, what type of message do they want to send, etc.  I had a lot of fun visualizing the characters for Trash.  Since most of the characters are inanimate objects, I had to think about not only what type of personality each character had but also what elements of the objects could help represent that personality.  For example, Rusty, who is a piece of rusted metal, is very bitter and doesn’t believe there is any hope in getting out of his current situation due to his past experiences. I started to visualize a costume that had sections of banged up metal plates, similar to armor in a way.  Rusty uses sarcasm and anger as his armor to protect him from what he perceives as a hopeless world.  He has been hurt in the past and has emotional battle scars, which are symbolized in the dents and dings of his “armor”.

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this experience?

I hope the playwrights will learn just what goes into putting together a realized production, and what a creative, collaborative process it can be.  Most of all, I hope they think that it was a rewarding experience and feel encouraged to continue to create theatre!

Come see Jordyn’s costume designs come to life during Plays by Young Writers!

postcard front pbyw fy19

For more information and to reserve tickets online, visit

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