I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Drama Days. And nights....

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.” Bob Thaves

As I chuckled over the absoluteness of that statement, I was immediately lost in visions of dance routines and the tap, tap, tap of tap shoes. I am such a fan of musical theatre, and most especially water ballets! I have watched and re-watched all the Ester Williams movies I have been able to find. I love all things synchronized, and glitter and glitz make my heart race!! When my daughter joined synchronized swimming as a young girl, I was thrilled to be on the sidelines, ready to assist in glueing and sewing sequins and other shiny things. I didn’t do so well on the hair side of things though and after her head had been turned into a solid mass of hair with thickened gelatin, I resorted to glue gunning her bun cover to the back of her hair and making her sleep with it this way for the 2 days of the competition....I have never been good with hair. Or flowers.

My daughter was to spend a lot of time on stage and I was an adoring stage Mom. I learned early on when to interject and when to let her do things her own way. But, by the time she got to grade 8 and her Middle School Drama group produced Romeo and Juliet, I was involved. Her Drama Coach had a vision and allowed me to assist, so much so that I shared a NB Excellence in Costuming Award with her and another parent. Although I produced numerous costumes for that production, my favorites were those for my daughter as I had to develop the patterns myself. My daughter played the Nurse and I created her many layered costume including 2 elaborate head pieces and a “fat” suit based very loosely on the one in Mrs. Doubtfire. 

High school brought numerous roles for her to fill as she met a teacher who was to become one of her strongest mentors. Under his tutelage, she learned so much, and in tandem, so did I. I have lost count of the number of productions produced in her 4 years and also lost count of the hours my entire family spent spent building costumes, constructing and painting sets, lettering stage pieces, organizing the costume storage room and dressing rooms, compiling costume bibles, taking photographs, putting up and striking the sets, and transporting all of the above! 

Her time in Drama was a great training ground for life. And while she was busy learning lines, dance routines, songs, monologues and helping back stage, if I wasn’t painting sets, I was usually found in front of the cutting table or sewing machines building one of many necessary pieces. Probably one of my earliest and biggest accomplishments within this scope of theatre work was constructing 3 genuine corsets for Into the Woods. Each corset took me 21 hours - after I had first figured out how to create them. 

When building stage pieces, you need to consider so much more than when you are simply sewing garments. They need to be made so that they will accommodate a variety of sizes of actors, be strong enough for multiple costume changes and performances, allow for ease of movement, allow the dressers to get actors in and out of them easily during quick changes, and maintain a fresh look. There are many times you have to look outside the fabric store box to find exactly what would fulfill these needs. 

In order to keep the corsets shape intact and to help make sure they in turn kept all the body parts where they should be, I ended up using stripped electrical wire for the boning. It was difficult enough to use, but in doing so, I also had to make sure each piece was the perfect length so that the actor wearing it wouldn’t be stabbed during a performance if she happened to move a way that made the boning shift! For some of the first performances, I sat ready with my wire clippers so I could quickly adjust the lengths when one of the girls came off stage! 

When I was looking at photos from my daughter’s drama years, I realized she had worn one of the corsets again in her final year of high school in a production her Drama Coach wrote for her and that yielded her a NB Provincial DramaFest Outstanding Actor Award. That was the wonderful thing about building pieces for the Moncton High School Drama program - all pieces became resource pieces for other schools and theatre groups and many were integrated into other MHS productions. 


  1. You are a very versatile artist!

  2. Sorry I couldn't keep up the synchro mum. Something about those early morning practices didnt sit well even at an early age hahah.

  3. It is great fun taking on new challenges and I could never say no to my kids!