Playing Dress-Up

(Part of a series about “Metamorphoses”, running through July 21, 2013 at Georgia Shakespeare)

Despite all my lofty ideals and philosophical musings, I have to admit that one of the reasons I love theater is the costumes.  I like to play dress-up.

This is less true in my daily life, where I prefer jeans or even overalls to anything fancy.  I don’t wear make-up; I don’t own fifty pairs of shoes; I don’t even blow-dry my hair.  I am a plain Jane.

But at the theater I love to play with all the toys:  dresses, hats, wigs, jewelry, you name it.  I never grew out of my childhood fascination with trying on different personas through clothing.  A friend found me on Facebook recently and said that she remembers playing dress-up with my mom’s hats and shoes.  I am sure we did it every chance we got.

For “Metamorphoses” there are more costumes than I can count.  Our wardrobe mavens, Niki and Jen, spend hours washing, drying, steaming, ironing and organizing before every show.

Jen prepping costumes for a performance

Jen prepping costumes for a performance

Nikki irons dozens of items

Niki irons dozens of items

Ten actors wear a variety of white base costumes, embellished with colorful scarves, sashes, shirts and hats, in addition to specific costumes for different characters.  Each myth has a color theme.  Each god or goddess has a crown.  Jewelry and clip-on hair pieces abound.

Since many of the costumes get soaking wet, there are large laundry tubs backstage, next to the usual laundry baskets we fill at the end of a show.  As we come off stage from a wet scene, a crew member hands us a towel and we head for the dressing booths (built just for this show), strip off our wet clothes, towel down, and change as fast as we can for the next scene. 

Niki or Jen will magically appear just when a hook or a zipper needs fastening.  I don’t know how they do it, but they track every change we make.  They are the unsung heroes of laundry.  Our clothes are always ready, and our wet things are spirited away to washers, dryers, drying racks and fans downstairs. 

The beauty of all this is that the audience is completely unaware.  (Well, now you know, but you won’t tell anyone, right?)  From their seats, they witness only the beauty of spectacle and the pleasure of surprise each time a new costume appears.  Ideally, they take it all in as part of the story.

Which is the goal.  We play dress-up; you have fun.  It’s a win-win situation.

One thought on “Playing Dress-Up

  1. 1) Ey, just ’cause you don’t wear makeup or fancy clothes doesn’t mean you’re a Plain Jane! In fact it is extremely refreshing in a social sphere such as theatre, which functions in large part by putting tremendous value in appearance and body image (sometimes above talent). You’re embracing yourself the way you are and that is the healthiest way to be!

    2) But… that being said, costumes and costume gurus are, indeed, the bomb. Everyone likes a good game of dress-up. Especially when you’re getting paid for it.

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