Costume crew is not just a bunch of girls sitting around sewing and gossiping. It’s a group of dedicated people who choose to spend hours on end frantically fixing buttons so an actor can make their cue, running around to facilitate quick changes, and, well… sitting around sewing and gossiping.
Hi. I’m Jenna, if we haven’t already met. I’m the assistant costume designer (working under the ever amazing Emily Eckhart) and it’s my job to make sure actors have the right clothes when they need them, where they need them, and in good condition. I am constantly running around to make sure that one little button got sewn on and that the quick change for the next scene is set up. Most likely, I run up and down the costume room stairs dozens of times a day. It’s exhausting. I constantly have a list of what needs to be done, and every time I cross something off it, a new task magically appears.
Here’s how a normal show goes for me:
About two weeks after the last show, everything gets into gear. The first rehearsal is often the worst. We may not know who is playing who and therefore, we can’t plan much, so we just watch the hilarity that is actor warm ups. The next couple of weeks see an outline appear, and we sit and desperately pray Figg will change her mind about a few of the giant and difficult costumes she wants (something that rarely happens) and begin to pull a few costumes that we want to try on people. We soon decide who is going to need a full handmade costume. Next, we start to get most people costumed and start the custom designs. As we get more people costumed we make the mistake of feeling like we’re on schedule. Tech Week suddenly appears.
Tech is all night, full costume rehearsals starting on Friday and leading to the show the next Friday. This show had shorter rehearsals, but its still hours after school when we forget what sunlight is. This is crunch time. My ‘To-Do’ list suddenly becomes a four-page document. Clasps break, pants rip and collars get stained with stage makeup. Homework becomes a relic of the past. All I want is to go home and sleep. And then, we have to get up and do it again the next day. For a week. Then the big day comes; for me that means double-checking my list and fixing even more clasps that decided to break 10 minutes before the show.
During the show the running never stops with me making sure that quick changes run smoothly (or as smoothly as they can) and constantly dreading the moment an actor runs up to me frantically saying that their costume fell apart and they need to be on stage in 2 minutes. We do this for three (or four) days. Sunday, the last show always is a bit easier because we have the quick changes down pat.
Then we get to go home! Or not. It’s Strike time, so we get to spend the next several hours along with everyone involved in the show cleaning up any sign that there was even a show happening.
And if its the fall or winter show, we get to come back in a few weeks and do it all over again.
Just typing that was exhausting. Why do I do it? Why do any of the costume girls do it? The easy answer is that we’re just all insane. The other answer is that we love it (or are insane enough to love it… whatever works.) Sure, we sometimes feel quite unrecognised, very unappreciated and overworked, but we also feel like a community. Joining costumes makes you a member of a group of girls who are as insane as you, who would kill for you, and understand exactly why you’re in a awful mood (no sleep+constant stress = bad mood.) As a costume girl, you also become part of the Drama Club. A group of definitely insane people who will always keep an eye on you and make sure you’re ok.
We do it for each other. Yeah, seeing the final product and the audience is awesome, but looking at the people around you and saying “We did it. We put together a whole show!” is more amazing. Seeing all the pieces that had to go together and all the people that put those pieces there is really magical.
Here’s why I do it:
Alex, William, Sarah Mai, Mark, Tall Dan, Lococo, Alessandra, Lonnae, Johnny, Kia, Hannah, Jessie, Lilly, Emily B, Andrea, Miranda, Daniela, George, Sam G and all you lovely actors.
Nathan H, Mikah, Sarah H along with other awesome Seminar kids.
Clare, Nathan G, Nico, Tessa and the stage crew bosses.
Sarah V, Emma, Katherine and the makeup queens.
Becca, Cally, Zaharah, Sara I, Ali, Alo and all my costume lovelies.
Emily Eckhardt, mentor, boss and friend.
And of course, the person who makes this all possible: Figg.
That’s why I do it.
Written by: Jenna Buraczewski (2017)