Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wizard of Oz

While Annabeth was busy with Scrooge Thalia arrived home from a semester in the UK and set to work as tech director and lighting director for Wizard of Oz.  The show opened 4 weeks after she got home, so it was a whirlwind of activity.

There was no scene shop in which to make the set, so she used our garage

and basement. (That's Annabeth helping with the wood.)

Since this was over Christmas it was often cold.  Also, rainy -- the time frame included the days and days of rain that ended up flooding most of the area, shutting down interstates and generally causing a disaster.  Our house stayed dry, but it was stressful from the rain alone, not to mention trying to quickly build and paint things in unsuitable space.

Part of the design involved curtains, so I said I'd do those.  For the forest she needed a 40 foot span of muslin strips dyed various shades of green.  I rounded up an assortment of RIT dyes in various greens, plus black, brown, and yellow and set to work in our kitchen sink.

The muslin supplied for the project was 120 inches wide; the bolts varied in length from 7 yards to about 10 yards.  I took the fabric off the bolts and ripped each into 4 large sheets 30 inches wide.  I dyed the gigantic strips two at a time.  As the work progressed I got more and more random about my dye mixing; the last batch was simply "dump everything left that's open together and see what happens".  I also did quite a bit of throwing more dye in during the soak process.  We didn't want an even dye job, so I was splotching it up as much as possible.

The real trick was trying to get the sheets to dry given how soggy the climate was at the time.  Putting them through the dryer tinged the dryer drum green so I quickly stopped doing that.  I ended up with a fairly complex system of racks made from ladders, chairs, and anything else I could grab.

Then the sheets were ripped into 6 inch wide strips, varying from about 10 feet to 20 feet long.  These were sewn on headers -- I didn't have a 40 foot header, so I used some donated upholstery fabric to make 4 headers that were 10 feet each.  

I couldn't really spread out the project anywhere in the house, so it was a tangled mess in the entrance as I tried to somewhat methodically put various colors and lengths of strips together.

It turned out pretty well, though

especially considering how inexpensive it was.

Annabeth hadn't auditioned to be in the show since she knew she'd be busy with Scrooge, plus would probably help with the set.  

However, some dancers dropped out (possibly because they belatedly realized that doing a show over Christmas break means that you have rehearsals during Christmas break including every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Eve -- the company spells this out clearly, but people don't seem to "get" what that really feels like in real life).  During Scrooge performances Annabeth got a message from the Wizard of Oz director asking if she could come be in the Jitterbug -- just the one dance, which isn't a huge commitment.  So, yeah, that's a fun number, and a minimal commitment.  Scrooge finished, we helped strike, and the next day Annabeth went to Wizard rehearsal ... and as long as she was there, could she please help out with another dance number ... and another....

And she ended up being Nikko, the flying monkey.  Really, a dream role. 

The show was great, but, wow, was it stressful.  

The mission of this theater company is to give young people opportunity to develop skills in all aspects of theater, and I think this was a great example of what they're trying to accomplish. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Scrooge

Annabeth played the Ghost of Christmas Past in this production.  She needed a dress that was a cool white, Regency-style preferred.  We used Simplicity 4055 view A with modifications (linking to the Pattern Review page for this pattern since Simplicity's new website is a disaster).

We used a crepe satin for the base layer, and a textured chiffon for the overlay. We raised the neckline., and closed it with a zipper -- much better for quick changes.  Annabeth hated the cap sleeves, so I lengthened them to about elbow length, then added fabric hanging on down to her wrists.

The overlay turned out to look like a fairly stupid effect in these fabrics, so we ended up adding a ruffle of chiffon to the bottom of the base dress.  It gave a suitably droopy diaphanous, dead look.

It turned out to look a bit like a nightgown, unfortunately.  But, hey, Scrooge was in his dressing gown, so maybe that was okay.

Overall, this was a GREAT show.  The kids were absolutely marvelous in it, and wonderful to work with. The costume committee was super, too -- a great group of women who did far, far more  work than my small contributions.  The theater seats around 400, and three of the four performances sold out.

Monday, February 1, 2016


Moving in no particular order through the backlog of things I meant to post about, the Christmas show for 2015 was Scrooge.  Annabeth wanted to audition for it because she knew the director -- she had been in shows with him before and wanted to be in a show  he directed because she knew he'd be awesome as a director.

I volunteered to help with the costume sewing.  At first we just went through heaps of fabric to find suitable cape material for use in outdoor scenes.

Then I was handed several yards of brocade and Butterick 3648 (out of print, sadly) to make Scrooge's dressing gown. The pattern wasn't actually quite right for the job -- the skirt was too wide, the front edges had no facing, it had no belt.  But it was much closer to an appropriate shape than any current patterns by the major companies.

So, after reducing the skirt width by folding up the pattern pieces, making facings for the front, 

making a belt  (sewn directly to the robe) and adding a pocket

Scrooge had a rather nice dressing gown

which was his costume for most of the show.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Costume Sewing -- Three Blind Mice

At the moment I'm helping with costumes for a show.  I'm rushing those right out the door onto the performers without pausing to take pictures.  I hope to get some snapshots during rehearsals because it's really handy to have a record of these things for those future days when I'm wondering how in the world I came up with something or what alterations I made.  Here's a look back at some costumes I made nearly two years ago and never chronicled here.

Shrek was presented in Spring 2013 by a youth community theater group.  Annabeth played one of the Three Blind Mice.  I helped with costumes in general; one of the tasks was putting together the total look for the Blind Mice.

We painted dowel rods for the canes, and glued pink and white sparkles on them ("we" meaning Annabeth).  Gloves were cheapies from a party supply store. Wigs were borrowed from another theater group we work with.  Ears purchased.  Each mouse had her own hot pink hair piece.

Tails were a basic fuzzy fabric tail.  Annabeth has spent many Halloweens dressed as a cat, so making tails is pretty much second nature.  
(And, by the way, Donkey's costume, which you can see in some of these shots, is absolutely fabulous. The person who made it does amazing work. On the other hand, Donkey neglected to stay hydrated and ended up fainting from the heat during one of the performances.)

Pattern used for the dresses was Simplicity 1609.  Fabric was a pink brocade from Fashion Fabric Club.  Delivery from Fashion Fabric Club was very quick, by the way, but they ARE right here in town.  The dresses were lined with a basic pink lining fabric from JoAnn; the pattern doesn't call for lining, but I didn't want the brocade to stick to their tights while they were moving.  I bagged the lining.  I also left off all of the interfacing since this wasn't a garment for long term everyday wear (although Annabeth wore hers several times after the show).

As usual, Annabeth was smaller than the smallest size of the pattern, so that took some alteration time.  Really, it was interesting to make the exact same pattern for three differently shaped girls. I made muslins for all three so I could get the fit right.  The theater groups we're involved in generally skip that step, but I think it saved me time in the long run since I didn't have to go back and try to correct fitting errors after the dresses were made. 

I would recommend the pattern to others, although I'd recommend making a muslin first to check the fit.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Our Silent Auction contribution -- American Girl doll clothes

Choir goes on a week-long trip every year to various locations in the U.S.  Thalia participated for all 4 years of high school, and visited places like Florida and Colorado.  Last year was Annabeth's first year to be eligible to go.  At first she was not impressed with the idea of going -- for one thing, they were going to the Dakotas, which sounded boring.  But Thalia insisted that she really should go, so off she went -- she loved the event, and she loved the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.  

One of the fundraisers to pay for the bus is a Silent Auction.  It's held about the time of baseball's Opening Day, so it has a baseball theme, although all sorts of items are auctioned.  Over the years I've thought about what we could contribute to the auction, and finally decided that what it really needed was something that kids would be interested in.  We decided to go all-in and make it baseball themed.  Thus, American Girl baseball-themed outfits.

Annabeth and I worked on these together.  Most of the clothing patterns came from Pixie Faire, which has a wide selections of patterns for dolls.  Many of them were collected during the Freebie Fridays, which is when they offer one of the patterns for free.

The hat was made from a Lee & Pearl pattern.  Honestly, we think Lee & Pearl have the absolute best AG patterns available.  The logo was a bottle cap print out I found on Easy -- I printed it out (enlarged) on Avery iron-on transfer paper and put it on the fabric before I sewed up the hat.

Josephine modeled something a bit more swanky.  Again, these patterns are all from Pixie Faire.

Instead of a hat she had a clip:

And, of course, a handbag.

And shoes. 

Annabeth made all the shoes.  There's something enthralling about seeing a row of little doll shoes.  Well, maybe not for most people, but I just love tiny accessories.

Annabeth insisted that the packaging presentation for the actual auction had to be Just So. She carefully placed the items in cardboard boxes she had decorated, and included a photo of the doll modeling the clothing.  Each outfit was given a name.

The bidding turned out to be fairly level; we really were filling a gap with our contribution.  It helped that people knew that they were also contributing to a mission project with their bids.

This is how we found out people would actually hand over money for doll clothes we made.  And that gave us our boost into a new adventure of going to craft fairs selling handmade clothing.  More to come on that later.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ballet 2014

As a contrast to the previous post about this year's ballet, Giselle, here's a look at last year's ballet -- Super Mario Brothers. Yes, I'm aware someone did a little Mario-Princess Peach number on one of those competition-style television shows.  This, however, was a full length ballet, written before that dance was shown on television, and including more characters:

(Annabeth played Mario)

 Princess Peach, Princess Daisy and Toad were included:

As was Bowser (and Bowser Jr.):

Plus other of Bowser's minions such as the koopa troopas and the Hammer Bros:

And a bunch of goombas:

Early in the ballet the Hammer Bros, working for Bowser, kidnapped Peach.  In the meantime, Bowser Jr was after Daisy.  Queen Rosaline begged Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, et al, to rescue Peach.

Mario made his way through Water World

Down a pole (doesn't look like much here, but was really difficult to stage):

Battles ensued.  Many parts of the game were played out on stage, including Mario shrinking down to a smaller size (played by a young child) and being restored by the Wishing Star.

(Honestly, the first time I saw Bowser flinging Mario around like this I sort of panicked, like, "holy %&&*^$, you're about to bash her head in!")

But in the end, justice prevailed. Bowser was driven away, and all was well.  

Or was it?

Overall, an incredibly imaginative, fun, show.  

My part of it was making the costumes for Mario and Luigi.  Also, buying various compression tubes for Mario's shin splints, since doing the Mario-style gait really did a number on her shins.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ballet 2015

This year's ballet was a classical ballet -- Giselle.

We have a new tech director/teacher, and this was the first set he had his class make.  It was really lovely:

My assignment was to make sleeves for the Friends costumes.  They were re-using old recital costumes that had straps.  One mom added aprons, another added more tulle to give more fluff to the skirts, and I added the sleeves:

(It turned out that I had to do Giselle's sleeves and the sleeves of the Ladies in Waiting.  Lots of sleeves.  I really don't like sleeves in the first place, but, by golly, I have a lot more insight into how they are attached onto ballet bodices.)

Of course, after act 1 the Friends transform into

deadly Willis.  These three (Myrtha and her head minions Moyna and Zulme) had struck this exact pose during the first act scene pictured above -- foreshadowing! -- but to my knowledge no one managed to catch it in a photo:

Annabeth played Moyna, shown here floating around a graveyard terrorizing Hilarion:

The chug scene -- Annabeth is in front:

Death of Hilarion:

Very beautiful ballet.  Much pointe work.  Many "dead" pointe shoes after the whole thing was over.  Many sleeves.  Many revamps of the bodices of the Willis costumes (the tutus themselves were several hundred dollars, so inexpensive bodices were purchased ... which didn't work with the tutus.  So, much sewing and fiddling around to get the whole thing to work.) (Also, my habit of carrying around electrical tape in my backstage-costume-repair-kit actually came in handy, so that was cool.)

We can't wait to see what next year's ballet will be!