John Merritt III
Costume Designer · Crafts Artisan· Wardrobe Supervisor· Stitcher

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Insurrection: Holding History 
A Play by: Robert O'Hara

*My project of Insurrection: Holding History won the KCACTF Region 3 Regional Costume Design Project Competition in Spring of 2018*

A Few Words about the Play...

Originally starting out as a project for my advanced costume design class,  Insurrection: Holding History spoke to me in a way a play usually never does. The imagery and the text within the play is so powerful, as it brings together a young man, "Ron" who time travels in the past with his grandfather back to the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion of 1831. Here he witnesses these outrageous characters and people that are directly affected by the rebellion and slavery. He witnesses the mistreatment of his ancestors, and experiences the people who create the pain towards them. As mentioned in the script, there are several African american actors in the play that double as several Caucasian characters that inflict the pain towards the slaves. Not only is this a satirical advancement towards the characters in the play, it gives a whole different meaning to the way we see these worlds. As mentioned in my renderings, the actors doubling between characters are Actor 1/2/3. Mistress Mo'Tel and Ova Seea Jones are the characters that are doubled, and portrayed as Caucasian through african american actors. It is my intention as the costume designer to paint these characters in a non-offensive way to the audience, as I pulled from actual research of slaves and several who had suffered from the 1831 Nat Turner Slave Rebellion. This is how I remained true to not only the historical context of the play, but to bring forth these characters with my own vision as a class project. I found the play to be extremely touching, and I enjoyed this project immensely. I recommend to anyone to read this play with an open mind and an open heart. 

Design Statement 

When I was reading Insurrection: Holding History, I was immediately drawn to the theme of time travel. As  Ron travels back in time, he experiences the outrageous characters of the past. I began to explore how to contrast the characters of the past and the present. I did this through incorporating specific directional lines and motifs within the characters. Enviromental Research was a huge part of my research and inspiration, as I was inspired by abandoned graveyards and deteriorated old plantations. Since the play is a cross between the two worlds of the living and the dead, I also wanted to use color to highlight their differences. The people in the past have a dingy and deteriorated color palettes as though already dead, all while the living have more vibrant colors. Ron’s costume has a combination of both, as he can cross between both “worlds” .For the people in the past I incorporated horizontal lines and and flower motifs. For the people in the present I used vertical lines. I was drawn to the period textiles of the 1830s and manipulated my swatches to better reflect my research. If I were doing this play in real life, I would’ve sought out to dye/manipulate my fabric for the people in the past using natural dye from wilted flowers, which ties in the graveyard/dingy aspects and the floral motifs, as if the dead represents wilted flowers.

Enviromental Research 

Ron- blends both "worlds"  
The Past                              vs.                        The Present 


-Mistress Mo'Tel -


-Katie Lynn -

-Nat Turner-

-Ova Seea Jones-

-Izzie Mae-