Thursday, November 21, 2013

Behind the Scenes With the Costume Shop

A Christmas Carol.
Part of the magic of theatre is what comes out of its costume shops. South Coast Repertory has a creative team of artisans who work to create the varied and beautiful costumes for characters in our plays. We sought out Amy Hutto, costume shop manager, with a few questions about the fabric arts.

How long have you been in theatre?
AH: I have been involved in theatre since 1978 and spent many of my early years at Monmouth College as faculty and as a designer/tech director. I have been making costumes since 1986 in Naples, Florida at a theatre that sadly doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve been at SCR for over 17 years.

What are costumes at SCR made from?

AH: Anything we can find. We primarily use natural fibers like cotton and wool. At some of the smaller theatres I’ve been at we had to use a lot of polyester which is not such a joy to work with.

How long to make a finished piece?
AH: That all depends of course on the show and what we are making. For a traditional gown that you would have seen in Pride and Prejudice it takes between 60 and 100 hours, but for a contemporary outfit like those in 4000 Miles it can only take between 20 and 40 hours. Between material and labor the gown probably costs around $1,200 to make. And whenever I meet our donors, I tell then that they are part of each dress or jacket we make because without their support the show would look very different.

How do you produce a costume?
AH: First there is the design process. Once the designs are finalized, we source the materials from what we have on stock and what needs to be ordered. I will say that sites such as Etsy online have made life easier when we don’t have the materials like antique handkerchiefs or the time to hand crotchet twenty pairs of gloves for example. Then of course there is construction and fittings and more construction and tweaking.

Tim Cummings and Carmela Corbett in Eurydice.
What’s your favorite piece?
AH: I really like the gowns for Fred’s party in A Christmas Carol. I think they are just beautiful.

What was the most difficult piece you’ve created?
AH: I think the 15-foot-tall costume in Eurydice. That was a tricky piece. There was a ton of structure and we had to coordinate between multiple departments to check to see if the doorway was big enough and the platform high enough so when it moves it won’t roll over itself. That piece took 80 yards of fabric. I also think that when there are a lot of pieces to be made like in Cyrano de Bergerac it can be scary for us. However, when we have time, even a project like Charlie’s padded suit in The Whale won’t cause heart palpitations. I think we started that one about a month earlier than we would normally start a project.

No comments:

Post a Comment