Community theater in Parma Heights, Ohio? Is NOT BROADWAY.
Suprising, right? I know that I was astonished by this news! However, in being NOT BROADWAY, our shows have a very NOT BROADWAY budget. Our shows in fact have a very limited budget. (Also a very limited costume staff, namely myself.) What this means is that the funds and labor I do have at my disposal have to be allocated intelligently. Now if I had unlimited time, money, and man-power I would take a month to sketch detailed designs for every character in the show and have a staff of dilligent pattern drafters and stitchers who turned those designs into actual garments under the supervision of my watchful eye over the course of months. In reality I have to depend on three weeks, a few hundred dollars, and my own ingenuity and lack of sleep. So while I may want to custom design and build every item in the show I instead have to dig through the piles of costumes that the theater has obtained through the years and make alterations as necessary. Now this may not seem like a particularly daunting task until you discover what our costume and fabric storage looks like:
Once this show closes, re-organizing is a major priority that I imagine will take up several weekends of my life. However, the show must go on and the actors must be clothed before opening night TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY! (I think the aforementioned lack of sleep is starting to show itself though my overuse of caps lock in this post.)
In any case, a large portion of the past week has been dedicated to digging through the above-pictured mess to find clothing that is: 1) the correct size, 2) the correct time period, 3) not disintegrating due to age, and 4) appropriate for the character in question. And yes, these are the order of my priorities.
Pulling costumes from our existing stock is a challenge for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, much of our stock originates from donations. We are of course grateful for these donations as without them our cast would be nude and this is a family show. However, it seems that much of what people donate is a) falling to peices, b) ugly, and/or c) from the 1980s (b and c are usually related). Now I think the most obvious solution is to start doing more shows that take place among homeless people in 1985 but thus far I have been unable to convince the board to take this eminently sensible suggestion. So instead I am tasked with turning 1980s bridesmaids into 1920s glamour girls (this usually involves removing the shoulder pads).
The second challenge often has to do with size. As many news organizations have noted, our nation's citizens have grown remarkably larger over the past few decades. This means that when we do recieve donations of beautiful vintage garments they are usually absurdly small. Like 27 inch busts small. I am not joking about this. I often look at these garments and then die a little inside when I realize that my bust measurement is almost two feet larger in diameter and I usually don't consider myself to be grossly obese. Now for this particular production I have lucked out in this aspect as much of the cast is relatively petite, however this remains an ongoing challenge.
So after a week of digging, I've managed to pull a variety of garments and start some preliminary fittings. I plan to do full fittings early next week so as to give myself a full week to do alterations.
Meanwhile, I've also finished shopping and started building some specific items which will be the subject of my next post... stay tuned!