The birth of a mascot: How Prince the Peacock was born
Wednesday, October 11th, 2023
Every legend has an origin story, the tale of how it came to be.
And, while it’s a bit early to be able to call Prince, the College’s new (and first!) mascot, a legend, the flamboyant bird still has an origin story that starts with a private, anonymous donor who provided the funds, and a Central Pennsylvania-based theatrical costume designer who was up for a new challenge.
In the beginning
It was Spring 2023 when Brock Viering, a full-time costumer for Theatre Harrisburg, got the call to turn his imagination to a new task: brainstorming and creating a mascot for a college that never had had an official mascot in its 40-year history.
In an early meeting, he and several PCA&D representatives talked about the purpose of the mascot and what it needed to be able to do (“it’s not for a football team; it’s not going to be shooting T-shirts out of a cannon or anything,” Viering observes with a laugh). Then Viering and James Helwig from PCA&D’s Admissions Department got together to discuss materials. “A lot of the materials, we would end up getting from Etsy sellers, which we thought fit the (spirit of the) project well,” Viering says. “I was excited that most of those materials ended up working out and made it in” the costume. One special find, he says, was the handmade gold fabric that makes up the collar of Prince’s vest. Another is the feathery material that makes up the pants, because it’s similar to the feathery bodies of real peacocks.
“One of my favorite parts of doing a project,” he says, “is sitting down and going through fabrics and touching them and figuring out what’s going to work and what’s not.”
Many of those initial ideas made it into the final sketch Veiring drafted for the costume, which also started to express the “showmanship” nature they wanted the mascot to have.
“We started talking about the Donny Osmond costume” on the television show “The Masked Singer,” Viering remembers, and we said, so, what if it’s sparkly? “So that’s kind of where the idea for the train material came from, and everything else pretty much just came out of the sketch,” from that gold fabric collar to the “feathered” pants, sparkly train, and fully masked head.
That sketch also served as a valuable focal point for Viering as costume construction really got underway.
“When I was sitting down to paint (the sketch), I was thinking, these are the materials we already picked, and representing them on the painting in a way” that would allow him to go back to the sketch during actual construction and not get sidetracked. “I remember one day I was out picking up incidentals in the store and saw these great gold frog closures … they were so cool! But no — the sketch had buttons!” he laughs and those gold frog closures went back on the shelf.
Refining the ideas
This might have been Viering’s first mascot commission, but it wasn’t his first “show-style” costume. Though most of his work is done for theater casts, he’s also done one-off costumes for drag queens — that’s where some of his experience with sparkle comes in, he says.
Still, there are considerations with mascots that you don’t often have with other costumes, Viering says.
“Like, is all of their human skin covered?” he says by way of example. “You don’t want hands just randomly sticking out. Do we have something to cover (the wearer’s neck) if the T-shirt they’re wearing underneath and the mask don’t meet? If someone tall wears the pants, can we see their ankles.” Cue bejeweled gloves to cover the hands, an ascot to cover the wearer’s neck, and straps at the bottom of the pants to hold them down at the ankles.
Viering’s been involved in theater for years, including a four-year stint in Brooklyn, before heading home to Harrisburg and taking over costuming duties at Theatre Harrisburg.
It all started in high school, when he was signed up to help design the set and costumes for a production, in addition to acting in the play itself.
“I found myself telling people to come see the play because I’d done the clothes, not because I was in the play,” he says. His plan after high school, entering Ithaca College, was to go into scenic design and learn drafting — “and then I started doing it and I just did not like it!” he remembers. But the costume design part of his program remained his first love. “In my first costume construction class freshman year we had to make a teddy bear and a little button-down dress shirt for him to wear, and I was completely obsessed with that project,” he says. “Flash forward, and one of the first jobs I got out of college was dressing a calendar that was of teddy bears — so I was doing it all over again.”
When it comes to Prince the Peacock, Viering says, one of the most rewarding moments was when he figured out how to use magnets to hold Prince’s tail in the air hands-free.
“That was the most memorable, along with the first time a friend of mine put the costume on and it was finished garments and not just pieces … she put on pants, and a vest, and the head, and I was like, OK, there it is. Now it’s really clothes. In general, that’s a highlight: It’s no longer just pieces on the table. When it’s able to be worn, I get excited.”