Another fine theatrical production has been downgraded to a pile of stinky laundry. Yes, Chicago is finally over (except for one or two more loads of laundry, the great put-away, and other glamorous parts of the job). My design partner and I were incredibly pleased with the way the show looked, and the fact that it’s over.
That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Closing day of a show, actors are making teary speeches and heart-felt goodbyes, while costumers stand around muttering in disgust. It’s not that we’ve had our sympathy glands surgically removed. Actors do a lot of bonding through the rehearsal process, then they bond more during the show. They work hard, too – I wouldn’t have the patience for all the memorization and the “Let’s try the choreography again, with a few changes…” moments. But they seem to even bond over the shared pain. Costumers spend weeks working up art out of craft foam, hot glue and hope, and crafting wearable costumes that fit and stay on and look good on a tight budget. And shopping…. Oh, the endless shopping. Did you know you can get sick of shopping with someone else’s money? True story.
We make this grand opus of love and clever and ego, with ever actor wearing something in every scene, every quick change rigged and accounted for, everyone accessorized, everything hanging neatly on labelled racks, and we hand the cast their painstakingly detailed cheat sheets of what they wear and when, and then all hell breaks loose. All that love, and the first thing that happens is someone gets makeup on the collar. Then a button pops, and a necklace breaks. Then people sweat in the damn things. Seams tear out. The actors feel they don’t have time to hang things when they change between scenes, and costumes get kicked around in a pile on the floor. (Costume Hockey – my favorite sport.) This was a good cast… At the end of the show, they got round to hanging everything back up, and they weren’t overly creative about how they did so, either. (Creative Hanging is my second favorite sport. You’d be shocked by just how many ways there are to put a pair of trousers onto a hanger.) Between the time the show starts, and the time the curtain falls, there’s a costumer sitting in a basement just waiting to see what’s happened to all of her hard work and trying to get things fixed by the next time they’re needed on stage. If you can forgive me just a little moment of bitterness, I have to swallow bile every time one of them smiles while handing me something broken, like it was a personal triumph to break something. Ooooohhhh, that just gets me, especially when it’s accompanied by a flip, “Look, gee, something else broke. Did you give me all the bad costumes?” At the end of the weekend’s performances, the dry cleaning gets taken out by us and the washing and mending go home with us. This starts during tech week, and runs through the show. All we can do is watch in horror as actors snag, rip, throw, and occasionally step on costumes, hats and jewelry. Oh, right, and we can do the mending and the washing.
By the time the show ends, costumers are busy trying to sort all the washing, put away as much as possible, and persuade actors to just get out of their blasted costumes before their heartfelt goodbyes begin and get out of the way because we’re trying to work over here. That’s what all the muttering is about. We’re not heartless; we’re busy. We’re still busy. I just wanted to clear that up, because there seems to be some misconception that costumers really don’t do a lot once the show starts, aside from sitting downstairs in case of emergency.
Someone’s just called, and I’ve completely forgotten where I was going with that rant. Therapy moment, I guess. Anyhoo…. There’s a lot of sitting downstairs in the green room, without a computer, a sewing machine, or even decent cell reception. So I did a lot of knitting…. I’ve moved into the world of socks recently.
I do enjoy all the knitting time, at least…. ;)