What I’m doing these days….Part One.
So much has happened that I am going to spend a few entries talking about MeMeMe if you don’t mind!
So I’ve now reached the age of 64…that “will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty four” age. Some days I feel some creaking hints that herald the reality of my advancing years, but mostly and so far, I’ve been very lucky and am doing very well.
Life just keeps getting busier…doesn’t that seem backwards? And now there is extra family in town, plus a 15 month old granddaughter in the ever-changing mix—which makes life all the more….whirl-y.
I am still head over heels about costume design, and feel as though I have truly landed on what I want to do when I grow up!
After 14 years now, I continue to direct, teach and learn in the hidden basement costume shop at the high school in our part of town. The students call this “creatively cluttered” area their “Happy Place.” and would be there every day after school year round if I had the energy to let them.
We used to just do two shows per year, and started the costuming process eight weeks before each production. Now we are doing three shows per year, and due to exuberance and request, we are doing a few costume/sewing/crafty classes after school in between productions. I am on staff as a part time para/guest artist, but during the run of each show I work a few hundred hours. So my happiness and soul is certainly more rewarded than my pocketbook!
“At some point, I will probably have to retire…” I told my theatre teacher colleague and good friend, Joel. “There will come a day when it will be too hard for me to get up and down those steps!”
“You CAN’T retire!” Joel exclaimed, “I won’t…..you can’t…..okay here’s what I’ll do—I will put into the theatre budget one of those mechanical stair chairs so you can ride up and down!”
And so I continue to grin through the buzz and laughter of dramatic, needy, talented and stunningly insightful teens. I teach these young brilliant ones all about sewing details, costume concepts, color palettes, draping, research and costume illustration.
They teach me about patience, camaraderie, inclusiveness, and all the dear, wonky and wonderful diversity of their thoughts and ideas. They work hard, but still manage to dance, sing, and laugh through their hours in the costume shop. They learn about wigs, hair and theatrical make-up. I fall in love with each flight of new students, and then they break my heart when they graduate. I totally adore them.
Here is some of their work for “The Addams Family”, “Avenue Q” (school version), (yes, they made those puppets!), “Twelfth Night”, “Zombie Prom”, and “The Importance of being Ernest”
We have gone through much together, as tragedy has happened several times within our school over the years. We have lost classmates and family members due to suicides or accidents. One of my costumers was struck as he was riding to school on his skateboard early one morning by a hit and run driver and paralyzed from the waist down. Another costumer lost both his mother and identical twin brother when they were killed in a tragic car accident in December. I’ve held bereft students as they’ve wept in my arms, and listened to them talk through parent/teacher/friendship struggles. I’ve walked with these active, articulate and outspoken students in anti gun violence school protests, and laughed hard at their utterly lovable zaniness. Many stay in touch once they have gone out into their exciting new worlds and come back to tell me about their lives when they are in town. I marvel at this, and their continued contact just makes me feel so honored.
I came to this career so late in my life, and still truly love it. No burn-out in sight!
I have also done costume design for local theatre companies in town, (but only when it did not interfere with the school productions) and have enjoyed all those experiences. I often hire current or former costume students to assist me with these shows.
I love doing the slightly off-beat productions. For me comedia del arte and fantasy costumes are so much fun….very challenging to my imagination. And I really love making masks and headpieces!
Here are a few pieces from “The Servant of Two Masters” and “A Midsummers Night Dream”
Last year my costume design for “The SnowQueen” at BasBleu was nominated for the Colorado Henry Awards (Kind of like the Tony Awards, but for the state of Colorado). This was an wonderful surprise that stunned me, as our local community theatre companies are pretty small potatoes in the state. But at the awards night in Denver, our own OpenStage Theatre company ended up sweeping up awards (for a different show that I was not involved in) for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Season—winning over all the big Denver and other area theatre companies!
(We did a lot of jumping and screaming!)
Here are a few pieces from “The SnowQueen” (They also produced a coloring book from the black and white version of my costume renderings for each character, which was a fundraising hit!)
(I do have a good time in this little life I’m living, don’t I?)
And yet, my greatest rewards are with the students I love so much. Yet another honor for me is that our students get to choose which teacher they want to give them their diploma at graduation. At the ceremony on Saturday, Connor, the student who is wheelchair-bound and paralyzed—stood for a moment to receive his diploma. STOOD! The principal wept as she hugged him and the whole student body leaped to a cheering standing ovation. I was totally undone of course, and could not stop crying.
These students are much of the heart and joy of what I get to do…they are much of my reason, my passion , my hope and my purpose.
I love my “job.”