Monday, June 25, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing - Costumes, Set, and Performance Photos

The main premise of this post is,  of course, "Hey, look at how great my kids and their friends are, putting on this play with just 8 days of rehearsal and doing a really amazing job!" But we'll divvy it up to look at the subheadings of Costumes, Set, and Performance.


Beatrice (played by Thalia), Hero, and Leonora were dressed in a bodice derived from Simplicity 3782.  Click on pictures to enlarge to see more detail, if desired.

They had an underblouse of Butterick 5008.  I left off the collar and used bias tape to finish the neckline, and then a hook and eye to fasten (Leonora has the original collar stand and ties).  Also, velcro to fasten the sleeves.

The skirts and overskirts started out as some other Simplicity costume pattern, and segued into "how much fabric do I have, and how can I whack it up and sew it up to look okay?" since this was all donated fabric in random widths and lengths.

Margaret and Ursula (dressed in white in the center of the photo below) had a modified version of the blouse from Simplicity 3809, mostly raising the neckline in the front.  They had muslin skirts and an overskirt, again made up on the fly.

Conrad (played by a girl) is on the left below, wearing another rendition of Simplicity 3809.  Her pants were a pajama pattern I found in my stash, cut short, threaded bias tape through so she could gather them into a knicker look. In the middle is another member of the watch wearing a modified Simplicity 2689, and another pair of gathered-leg pants.  The guy with the guitar is wearing a borrowed costume. He also wrote all the songs they sang, and is the father of one of the performers.

Dogberry is in Simplicity 3519 and a shortened pajama pant pattern.  Verges/Oatcake (Annabeth) is in an OOP McCall's tunic pattern. (I love the expression on Annabeth's face here holding the lantern.  Also, Ursula is doing double-duty in the watch here -- she has an orange shawl when she's in the watch.)

The director wanted to emphasize the difference in their sizes by making Dogberry's costume voluminous and Verges very narrow.

I didn't make the costumes for Don Pedro, Don John, Benedick, Claudio, Borachio, other than Don Pedro's shirt.  Their shirts and vests came from Simplicity 4923.  The pants were elastic-waisted pajama pant that was cut short for everyone other than Don Pedro.  Elastic to gather the pants bottom, and also a pleat with a button to give them a more classy look.


The director wanted something evocative of Tuscany, but made in about 3 days by a bunch of kids (led by a very creative, talented adult) on a budget of pretty much nothing.

The Big Deal item was making a fountain out of a wading pool, a plastic pot, and a pump, which was put in center front. This was used by Benedick, of course, to splash in.

Okay, I'm just including this because it turned out so hilarious.  The watch was following Borachio and Conrad around to eavesdrop on their scheming (Act 3 scene 3 maybe?), hiding behind this incredibly tacky looking "shrubbery" made from foamboard.

The sides of the set were made from strips of various gauzy fabric torn into strips and dyed.  These functioned as the garden in which hid Benedick and Beatrice at various times.

For  Hero's wedding bower, more strips of fabric were hung on the gazebo. 

 By the way, the large ferns hung on the gazebo (you can see them in some of the other photos) were used as attendance prizes -- all you had to do to enter was put your name on a slip of paper.  There were other attendance prizes also, and raffles.


This year the kids had the privilege of working with Jim Butz, who conducted an acting class as well as performed the part of Don Pedro.  In the scene below we're ostensibly seeing Don Pedro proposing to Beatrice, and Beatrice asking if he has any brothers.  What we're REALLY seeing is Thalia thinking ZOMG this is Norbert Leo Butz's brother -- I wonder if he could introduce me.  Well, okay, not really, but she did think it was funny that she said Beatrice's lines to Fiyero's brother, since she loves Wicked.

It was fascinating to see such a good actor working in this intimate setting, and have a chance to analyze why his portrayal of Don Pedro worked the way it did.  I found myself noting how he made his entrances, for example -- you could literally see the energy ramping up as he moved from the wings (which were very visible) onto the set.

Overall, they all did an amazing job.  They had a great time doing it, too.  The director will have a hard time topping this, but she's already considering which play to do next June. (And, if you live around St. Louis and are between 10 and 18 years old, you can be part of it! Dayspring School of the Arts in Maryland Heights!)

I have some video clips, too, but haven't put them online yet so I can transfer them to here.  Maybe later.  I had an unfortunate tendency to turn on the video, and then just watch the play, so the actors wander out of the frame because I'm blithely ignoring what I'm taping, and I ended up with a lot of footage of people's feet or arms.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shakespeare Family Festival 2012

Some general photos of the festival this year, which is a free event at Millenium Park in Creve Coeur ....


Characters from various plays roaming around, in this case Romeo and Juliet.  Each set of characters did a 30 second version of their play.

Kinetic Tapestry interactive circus.  This was a calm moment in their area.  In addition to helping kids walk the line (which was wildly popular) they had plate spinning and juggling.  And did fire breathing during the play.

American Recorder Ensemble.

Olympia Fencing.

Two artists ... I didn't figure out which one was who, but one was painting, and another doing caricatures.

Karl Kindt, the storytelling knight, shown here in the children's activity area (kids could make shields and ... well, really, I don't know what all they did there, although it seemed like the adults in charge were having a blast ).

Capering Roisters demonstrating Morris dancing.

Of course, the main event was Much Ado About Nothing, which was performed at 11am and 6pm.  More about that in another post.

And afterwards a cast party at our house, featuring all the leftover Smoothie King smoothies, which were soooo good after a long day.  Plus, of course, other food, and lots of running around blowing off steam after a stressful week.  Also, wedding cake for Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice.

Once again the weather was really lovely.  What a great event.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday

What I'm actually doing today is trying to pick up enough crap in the dining room/sewing room so I can sweep it, since the bits of thread and fabric have reached about ankle depth.  Here are some of the things I've accomplished in the past week while sewing way more than a person should in such a non-ergonomically correct environment.

Verges/Oatcake's shirt.  This has a pair of lavender stretch capris that go with it.  Or violently clash with it, as the case may be.  The top is product of an old OOP tunic pattern, McCall's 7518 that I narrowed down so much she can barely wiggle into it. 

This is for another member of the watch, based on Simplicity 2689, which is a very cute pattern, by the way.  She has brown linen short pants that tie below the knee.

Leonora's skirt.  We had more girls than boys, so we have Leonora rather than Leonato.  This is 2 layers.  The top layer of pink is godawful to work with.  We have yards and yards of it left, and I plan to pitch it in the trash so no one makes the mistake of trying to sew it again.

Leonora's bodice.  It needs something pink to balance it with the skirt.  It goes over a shirt ... I made 3 ladies shirts, and apparently took no pictures of them.  Anyway, this is based off of Simplicity 3782, and has the little peplum-tabs around the waist.  It laces up the back, which is why there's a pink ribbon hanging down from the back.  It will probably look horrendous on since the student was supposed to email her measurements (she was out of town), and sent numbers to me that were flights of fancy.  Really.  She said her waist was 35 inches, and we tried this bodice on and it was HUGE.  So I took a tape measure and measured her waist as about 30 inches.  "Oh, I guess we measured about here," she said, pointing to a place that was vaguely midway between her waist and hips.  Gah.  A high school student who doesn't know where her waist is.  I'm pretty sure her bust measurement was equally off.  I sort of want to stab her with my scissors.

Hero's skirt.  On layer, with the cream stuff sewn in to look as though it's two layers.  

Hero's bodice.  Same pattern,  except done to the correct measurements.

I didn't get any photos yet of Beatrice's outfit.  I hope to get more photos on Saturday during the play.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday

Just taking a quick break from sewing to show a few things....

Dogberry's tunic.  He'll have blue short pants to go with this. Simplicity 3519, size XL.  He's actually an XXL, but this thing is HUGE with all of these gathers, so it fits fine. 

Don Pedro's shirt.  He'll also have black pants and a long blue striped vest.  Simplicity 4923 in size M, which I hope isn't too big for him -- again, it looks HUGE.  Also, I was sort of startled that the front was shorter than the back, but someone with a clue explained that was fairly typical back in the day. 

Ursula's or Margaret's top.  There's another one of these awaiting the official elastic-threader (Annabeth) to get home from rehearsal.  This is a modified version of Simplicity 3809, much of the modification being to make it less slutty-looking.

Cutting out Verges/Oatcake's tunic (the 2 roles have been combined into 1).  Dogberry is the biggest person in the cast, and Verges is the smallest; we're dressing them to emphasize the discrepancy.  This is McCall's 7518, which is probably OOP since I purchased it sometime around 1994.

Random photo of trying to get musty smell out of fabric by hanging it over chairs and playground equipment.  This particular piece has already been soaked in vinegar water, then washed with Borax and rinsed with vinegar water.  It was making our noses run to be anywhere near it.  Maybe now someone can stand to be in the same room as it.

Okay, back to work.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Okay, let's say you "collect" fabric, and have a rather large stash.  Possibly more than you can use in your lifetime.  And then you decide to downsize to a smaller apartment, or, for that matter, you drop dead.  And all that fabric!  Does is go clutter up a landfill?

Well, if you live (or die) around St. Louis, a group of women called Sharity Charity will take all of that fabric, sort it out, and distribute it to charities that are making items for others.  They get literally tons of fabric each year, and distribute it to Girl Scouts, youth groups, church groups, hospital auxiliary groups -- whoever needs fabric to help others.  And those people make it into quilts, tote bags, sun dresses for little girls in Haiti or Africa, animal beds for shelters, weighted autism vests, stuffed bears for emergency vehicles that might pick up children, baby items for Newborns in Need, etc.  (NB: they get little to no fleece.)

They used to meet twice a year to sort all of their fabric.  These days I think they meet once a week.  The day we were there browsing I saw about 20 - 25 trash bags full of random fabric that had just been dropped off to sort.

We, of course, were looking for fabric for costumes.  Fabrics for Dogberry and his gang,

pants for Don Pedro, Benedick and Claudio, plus the other men,
white shirts for men and women,

stacks of old Pellon interfacing that can be used for tracing off multi-sized patterns.

We need more than we brought home that day, but we were reaching mental capacity to keep track of everything.

 Check it out -- this is from Woolworths for 83 cents.  Was the price for the full cut, or was it a per-yard price?  How long was this tucked away in someone's closet?  Boggles the mind.  It has now been washed (it smelled pretty musty), rinsed (with vinegar to help kill the smell), and dried -- just like label directions (okay, actually if ANY of this stuff looks even vaguely washable I've been throwing it in the machine -- it's ALL musty, and sometimes smokey).  It's next adventure will be as pants for Dogberry and the watch, or else overskirts for Ursula and Margaret.

Some of it is actually curtains that people pulled down and then were apparently loath to throw away since it was "usable fabric", ahem.

They also have large cones of thread, ribbons and trims.

If you're in the area, and have a group that could use some fabric for a charitable project, let me know and I'll give you the contact info.  I'm not comfortable simply blasting it out over the internet.

And if you're not in the area ... I wonder if you have something like this around.  I've read about another group in the South Bay area that collects and distributes quilting fabrics.  And, doesn't setting something like this up sound like an awesome Gold Award project idea?  Another cool project would be an online registry/wiki of organizations like this.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday -- Skirts!

Five skirts so far.

Two of them are out of this lightweight perma press cotton.  It has a satin finish, and is 45 inches wide.  I have enough to make one more skirt out of it, which I'll start cutting out after I post this.  I'm making the waistbands on these very generous since this fabric is light enough to wrap around a smaller girl's waist, thus making it quite adjustable -- from about a 23 inch waist to a 38 inch waist. (Cast list still hasn't been posted - final audition today - so I still have no idea who I'm making costumes for. ) 

Two of the skirts are from this heavy fabric that tends to remind me of a shower curtain due to its shiny, plastic-y look.  This fabric is about 60 inches wide.  I have enough for another half-skirt; I'm thinking about taking these two apart, taking a half-panel from each of them, and then using those 2 halves to make the other half-skirt into a wearable skirt.  Each skirt is made of 3 panels, which means each has 6 half-panels; I have enough fabric to make a total of 7.5 panels, therefor I'm going to make each skirt of this fabric to be 2.5 panels.  They're so full - about 90 inches around the hem when all 3 panels are used - it isn't going to be terribly noticeable.  (Much of the time spent on this project has been taken up mulling over how to get the most costumes from the fabric supply.)

And the fifth skirt is the one from last week.

All of these are from Simplicity 3623.  I've got my process down pretty well by now.  I'm just serging the lower edge - no hem until we see the height of the cast members.  They may be left unhemmed for taller people.  I'm trying to convince myself that that's okay -- this is outdoor theater put on by students during a camp, so we don't have to be picky, right? Also, I'm doing all of this yards and yards of gathering by zigzagging over crochet cord.  I just do one line.  If this were regular clothing, or if we had more time to make these, I'd use 2 or 3 parallel lines for nicer gathers.

Additionally, last Wednesday my sewing machine, a Viking from the 1970s (actually my mom's) started making a terrible racket while Thalia was sewing the seam for the center drape-y thing for the spring recital (I think there's a word for "large drapey pieces of cloth hung from the ceiling above the stage" but I can't think of it right now).
I have no idea who this person standing there is, but it was impossible to get a stage shot without people milling around.

I eventually figured out that it was only happening when the bobbin case was in the machine, and wasn't dependent on whether or not a bobbin was in the case.  I managed to take much of that part of the machine apart, cleaned out an amazing amount of lint, put it all back together, and it worked fine for a week.  But now it's making that noise again.  So I've dragged up the other sewing machine, the Vigorelli from the 1980s.  Years ago Rick asked why we had to have 2 sewing machines -- couldn't we get rid of one? If you sew much you know that it's really nice to have a backup.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


1.  Took Thalia to catch a bus to go to Florida with her choir.  It left at 8am Saturday, so they had to be there to load the bus at 7am.  They'll sing at 4 places, visit Universal, go to Fort Myers -- quite a whirlwind.

2. Took Annabeth to the mall to shop for a birthday present for a party Saturday afternoon.  Then home to have lunch and wrap gifts, then off to the party.  Except I got sick really suddenly -- one minute I was fine, the next I had a brutal headache and was running for the bathroom.  Weird.  I took her to the party, and another mom offered to bring her home.

3. Spent most of the day and the next morning not doing much more than drinking ginger ale.

4. Rick and Annabeth went to the swimming pool late Sunday afternoon, which was apparently really cold due to the swing back to cool temperatures this past week.  When they got home they decided they wanted a fire.  So we rounded up hotdogs, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars, and all hung out in the backyard. 

Since it was so nice out, we took the rodent's playpen outside and set it up.

 Then we added rodents.

A good time was had by all.