Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Home Stretch
Tech Rehearsal is next Sunday, July 5. That means we have six days to have everything completed. Thanks to our wonderful volunteer moms, we are able to hand off some items- Madeleine is sewing the housekeeper's dress and Becky is running up some simple skirts and petticoats for the women's chorus. Joan is continuing to turn out the fabulous street dresses and bonnets.
I have two major projects left: completing Sikes and sewing all of Bumble. And two minor projects: doing the last little finishing items for Oliver and the Dodger.
Right now, awash in the minutiae of so many things still remaining, it's hard to recall our initial enthusiasm. But it will all return when an actor tries on their costume and their face lights up because they love it and it will help their characterization. And when they take to the stage and we can see the whole company as a whole, it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I was feeling very guilty because Morgan McGyver Yarbs put a screwdriver in her mouth while they were here on Saturday - I was tightening the bolts in my IKEA chair, turned around and discovered that she had crawled behind me in her ninja stealthy way and helped herself to a large regular- until her mother confessed that Morgie had climbed up the stairs ALONE and was in the bathroom unrolling the toilet paper while she was in the kitchen and thought Jas was watching her.
She is THAT kid- the one who must have a constant keeper. Someone has to be on assigned 'Morgan watch' at all times, or she'll be on top of the refrigerator.

Pete was not happy about the Mr. Bumble costume offered by the costume rental place, so I offered to make him one. This is one of the pitfalls of costuming- the lure of the new. One must guard against it vigilantly or else you're going "Hmmm- you know, I've never made a 19th century greatcoat with a capelet and a bicorne hat..." and that way lies Crazy Town.

Our Oliver continues to grow- I had to open the back armholes of his 'poor' jacket so he could move his arms. Lucky for us, his 'rich' jacket is made of stretch suede cloth- it may last him through the show. The musical director has had to transpose some of his songs to a lower key- he's not Bryn Terfel yet, but he's losing the pure boy soprano you associate with little Oliver.

Orphans turned out very well, circus girls all look good, too. Tess's material was lying there, staring at me until I went "All right-FINE! I'll sew you!" and got it out of the way.
Fagin's Gang need a bunch of pants alterations and two more vests to liven things up- it was getting very brown, grey and black around there, but they are coming along.

As Geoffrey Rush kept saying in Shakespeare in Love: 'It will be fine.'

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

to all Dads. Thank you, for all you do and the sacrifices you make.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Professor Mimi
will be giving her lecture on costumes to TC's summer theater camp kids tomorrow. It includes a brief talk on what costumes are supposed to do and how we try to accomplish that, and a short sermon on 'respecting the costume' and how we remember who does and who doesn't. IOW, it goes on your permanent record. The one in my mind, anyway.
Then, we'll break into pairs and draw slips assigning them a character to design for. They are not allowed to choose one for themselves because theater does not work that way. I give them scratch paper, pencils and crayons for doodling ideas and a big sketch pad page with a croquis traced on it for their finished project. I may include a batch of swatches that they can look through for their creations, as well. We mount these in the lobby for the parents to see on the last day of camp when they perform the show they've worked on.
This went well last year and I hope to improve on it this year.

Today is Oliver Day. My goal: to get him almost completely finished.
Sike's hat is teh bomb, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Progress So Far The orphans are almost finished, thanks to Amelia's mom and grandmother. Their swatches are on the left. The color value is poor on the bottom one, it is more yellow, less green. My helpers put patches on them of the co-ordinating fabrics, one of which is the top sample. I threw the muslin items, along with half of the Gang shirts, into a tan dye bath, with a little grey added. I'm adding plackets at the front opening of some, closed with one of the antique buttons from our trip to the Hill Country (where Fagin's patches came from, as well.)
Some of the orphans may get jackets of the second from the bottom swatch- we'll see.

The swatches on the right are for the Artful Dodger. From bottom to top, they are: trousers, vest, coat, coat collar and pocket flaps, and hat. I wanted to keep them in the same color family- I don't like the Artful Dodger as Clown look, where they make him the Cat in the Hat. These look quite sharp and dapper now, but they will all be distressed.

We worry that Joan will be perturbed when we take a paintbrush to her wonderful creations for Nancy and Bet, but they must be in character and we're not planning to re-use them for anything else. She does the most wonderful work- I'm making V. buy me my own camera, so I can take photos of the processes and the finished product.

Her Mrs. Sowerberry is genius- a great concoction of all types of black textures.
We discussed ideas for the women street vendors for 'Who Will Buy' and she found perfect calicos and solids for them: a yellow and rose print for the Rose Seller's skirt over a yellow underdress, a spring green and pink overskirt over a strawberry pink for the Strawberry Seller and almost a white and blue toile with a blue skirt for the dairymaid. What a picture they will make on stage together.

My other volunteer mom did an excellent and imaginative job on the circus girls and has offered to put together the Strongman, if I will kit it up for her. The little girls have a longer dance than we had originally thought and I'm glad they're fairly gaudy.

One of our Gang suffered a tae kwan do injury- a sprained ankle. His mother, who's also in the cast, thinks he will be recovered by the time we open. I suggested having the set crew make him one of those Tiny Tim crutches, just in case, and he could be the Crippled Beggar Pickpocket.

V. ordered me David Lean's 1948 Oliver Twist, which I've been watching in snatches on YouTube. There are wonderful ideas in it, but we can't go quite that dark. I assured Connie, the set painter, that he had used almost the same view of the London skyline that she had chosen- great minds, etc.
V. has been working on the set crew and finds it fascinating, especially the part where Robert appears, announces "We need to do something different with this" and begins to splash black paint on a perfectly painted piece of furniture. I explained that that happens more often than you might think- Oliver's pants are a good example.

In the "You're killin' me, Smalls!" dept.- Oliver must be wearing his street clothes, except for the jacket, under a nightshirt. So the nightshirt must be opaque enough for his lovely plaid pants not to show through. The little gal at the Hobby Lobby found this an interesting problem and helped me decide on a white-on-white calico.

Today is Bill Sikes Day and I should go sew.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not about Costumes.

The Yarbs deconstruct.
And Ro takes to crime.

Monday, June 08, 2009

In which I get well at the Goodwill,
Ross, Party City and Queen Beauty Supply.
Before I began costuming, I only considered thrift stores a good place to find the occasional odd book I wanted to read or a denim jumper for summer.

Now I see it them as an Aladdin's cave of wonderful things that I can acquire for practically nothing and use pretty much as is and do not have to sew. (Though it's a good source of garments to cut up for the material, as well.)
Today, I bought trousers for all the men's chorus- two pairs for Charlie, who has to be the workhouse flunky, as well as other characters, four jackets and four pairs of pants for Fagin's Gang. Now, two of the jackets and all four of the pants were originally women's clothes, but no one will complain if they know what's good for them. Most of them were on sale at 50% off, too.

Party City had two cheap-o felt top hats and while Ross didn't have any XXL grey blouses, they did have straw sun hats. I bought three- one for the Rose Seller to wear as is and two to transform into bonnets, as well as a navy newsboy cap.

I picked up a package of grey hair made out of some mysterious fiber not found in nature at Queen, as well as some scarves to use as neckties.

The mom who's making the circus girl dresses offered the Gang a bunch of school uniform shirts too damaged to re-sell and I jumped on that like a duck on a june bug. I'll throw the shirts in the washer with the muslin orphan items and dye them all at the same time. Then they'll need about five vivid vests, some more neckties, a couple of watch caps and they'll be about done.
So, if I can finish my principal men, then I can give Joan a hand with the women's chorus.

The Orphans will look well, I think. They're subtle, but largely so, if that makes any sense.
A picture would help, but Sis has the camera. We discovered that the actress playing Nancy is the daughter of Nini's first grade teacher- isn't that interesting?
And Ro stage-managed 'Rumors' with a prop mistress who's the sister of one of the chorus gals, who was also in a show I costumed last year for TC.

Bill Sikes came up to watch the rehearsal- he's anxious to get started, but Pete had to work around conflicts and they won't use him for another week or so. I described his costume in detail and he seemed pleased. But, as we agreed, any role where you don't have to wear a bra full of millet and size 13 purple suede heels is an absolute improvement.

I was on Mom Duty Friday through Saturday- Marge dragged herself up from Oak Cliff with a terrible bone-aching flu and slept on the couch until Sunday, when she felt well enough to go home and I baby-sat for Sis Saturday afternoon while they finalized their contract with the re-modeler. So maybe all my successful shopping today is virtue's reward...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Today's Project: Kits
for the lovely moms who have volunteered to sew for us.
First- circus girls for Madeleine: tulle, net and organza skirt to sew to satin tops. And decorate with whatever snippets of sequins and fringe I found in the supplies closet. This a distinctly low-ball and recycle project. Colorful, though: royal blue and aqua, gold and orange, hot pink and fuschia.
Second- the rest of the workhouse orphans for Becky: shirts and pants of muslin and some unidentified homespun-looking fabric from the mill ends table. And assorted scraps for patches.
When they're finished, I'm tea-dying the muslin items to give them a little punch and dirty them up a bit and fray the unfinished edges.
Connie, the associate set designer who does all the backdrop paintings, showed me some of her designs last night. I need to jazz up some costumes so they don't disappear, but not so much that they compete.
Well, I put together a jacket for Oliver using my new patterns and though I carefully compared measurements- it did not fit. The pants did, though- so I'm inclined to think his chest measurement may have been off, which is a chance you take with letting parents measure. NB: don't do that next time, for principals anyway.
But I found better fabric for the jacket, anyway and will cut the new one larger. And give the old one to a Gang member. That's the go-to solution for anything that doesn't work out-"Someone in Fagin's gang can wear it!"
Oliver's 'rich boy' pants may go there, as well. The checks blend and they look a little green. So, I may re-do them in a larger plaid. It will not look garish and loud on stage.
Dodger's pants are ready to try on and his vest is complete. Aging his coat is freaking me out, but I'll figure it out.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I Don't Need Dilemmas at 10:00 pm.

First, the good stuff. Had a very productive sewing day and when I made a trip to Jo-Ann's for circus fabric, I found this, which will save me so much work, I'm practically giddy.

No more cutting down adult patterns to fit middle school youngsters, never mind adapting things for the really little ones. This comes in ALL sizes. I bought two, the largest child and the smallest adult.
How did I miss this going through the books? Must have been all the red, white and blue that threw me off.
I must say, the Dodger's pants, previously an altered scrubs pattern, look so much better when re-cut by this. Please notice that in addition to a frock coat (Lincoln) and a tail coat (Uncle Sam), there are knee britches (Washington). And it's all in costume design, not re-enactment mode with its thousand authentic construction details.
Giddy, I tell you.
Because that's one of the biggest time issues for the small theater- altering patterns to fit your variously sized cast members. Patterns are expensive and you can't buy even all the multi-sized versions of a design. Even if you draw your own simple shapes, you must do the figuring from their measurements and draw it out on pattern paper.
Collected a pile of nylon net and tulle in vivid colors for the circus gals. Oddly enough, there was no animal print fleece at all, so I got a leopard print silky dress fabric for the strongman. Sounds peculiar, but it will be fine. There was enough rust-colored lining remnant for poofy pants, with a good bit left over for other bits and pieces- I cut the collar for Dodgers vest out of it, actually.
I think I've finally found a use for some trim that I bought for Forum. I fell in love with it and tried to incorporate it in the blue costumes (our houses were color-coded) and it wouldn't work in any of them, no matter what I tried. But I think it will meet its destiny on the rust vest.
But- the director phoned after rehearsal with a problem: Widow Corney isn't plump enough to match the lyrics of the song she sings with the beadle. Can we do something to make her look fatter?
Technically, of course we could, but her dress is almost completed, it can't be altered to be larger and I really don't want to ask Joan to scrap a costume she slaved over just because the actress's butt doesn't look big enough. We have too big a cast and not enough time for projects like that.
But I will consult with her before I give him a definite answer. She may not mind or we might be able to let another actress wear it in a different scene or we may think of a solution- a bum roll or a quilted shawl or a padded apron or something. But she is too valuable a worker to alienate over a little detail like this.
Maybe we could just trust the audience to use their imagination?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's Official

Sunday and Monday were my first official Freak Out Days. These happen when you get past the excitement of design and picking out fabrics and seeing the cast for the first time and fathom just exactly how many there are- 41!- and that almost all of them are double/triple roles.
The realization of the sheer volume of work you've attempted under a deadline...Yikes.

That was bad enough, but when I arrived at the theater last night, Pete gave me the character list for 'Consider Yourself'. "And Anne wants five of them to be circus performers."
Circus performers? On top of their two already assigned costumes?
As Sissy would say: are you freakin' kidding me?

But on second, calmer thought, I like it. It mixes it up. And since the young woman was in Cabaret last year, I can use her Kit-Kat Klub tunic as a base. The rest: satin poofy pants and a felt vest for the sword swallower, an animal skin fleece tunic for the strongman, and satin and net/tulle ballet dresses for the two little girls, probably also made from Cabaret items. There were plenty of sequin and fringe scraps in the supply closet. It'll be fine.

And though he's having understudies for Oliver and the Dodger- a departure from the usual practice- I don't have to costume them.
Freak Out over.

Widow Corney's plum dress? My co-costumer is a genius. It looks wonderful.

Had to scrap Fagin's hat crown and begin again. But, I think the old crown could be made into a cap of some sort for a Gang kid. Like a smoking cap- we'll see. Otherwise, he's almost completed- just details like buttonholes and buttons. Still debating the tie/muffler. Will ask the actor.