Monday, December 21, 2009

Product review- Oil of Olay ultra hydrating moisturizer

I just completed my third nine show week of Christmas Carol. Only twelve more shows to go before it is off to the next.
The other day one of the kids from the Want and Ignorance scene asked if she could use some lotion on her face since her skin was getting so dry from the make up and then scrubbing the make up off during a quick change. I said that was fine. I think I thought she was going to put it on after our change but she put it on before the change. Brilliant.
Now I remember that part in Stage Make Up 101 in college when we put moisturizer on before applying all the stage make up.
So the kid, Want, gets dirt on her face so she can look really needy and poor. It is some kind of black make up and another dresser applies it with a sponge. I never know how much is going to be on and I have maybe a minute to scrub it all off so the kid can go back to her role as a Crachit kid.
Enter the Oil of Olay moisturizer. Now the make up comes right off with very little scrubbing at all. Just a quick wipe with the wash cloth and it's gone.
So I need to remember for future dirtying- Oil of Olay equals speedy dirt removal.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday pet dress up

The other day at Target I found myself staring at an end cap full of holiday cat costumes. I would buy one but I think that I will take the $5 and donate it to the adopt a family fund.
The costumes, for cats, included a hat, a collar piece and then some sort of leg warmers- brown for the reindeer costume and red for the santa costume.
OK so anyone who owns a cat knows ho difficult it is to get them to wear just the hat. So really, leg warmers? I know my cat would be hiding under the bed before I got the collar and hat on.
Thankfully my cat is 20 pounds and the idea that cats come in different sizes has not occurred to Target so my cat will be spared the humiliation of a reindeer costume. Maybe I will just cut and his face in an Elfyourself video.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday Beads

Every Friday as I look at my non-theater friends' status updates on Facebook there seems to be a theme. TGIF. Countdown to leaving the office. Only two more hours of work.
This is not the case for people in theater. This is our busy time. Fridays usually begin the start of a four or five show weekend. One Friday, two Saturday, two Sunday or maybe only one on Sunday. But right now I'm working on Christmas Carol so that means five show weekends.
One of my friends wanted to make Fridays more exciting for those with five show weekends to look forward to on Fridays instead of only two more hours at our desk. And so the Friday Beads were born. They are black beaded necklaces, cause backstage people wear black. They are usually plastic and purchased at second hand stores. You can take them out and wear them on Fridays cause it is fun and it makes Fridays special. If you aren't into wearing them you can just take them out of your locker and shake them in the air for a second, like "yay bead Friday".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

For whom does the alarm clock buzz? It buzzes for thee.

This morning when the alarm rang it was dark and it was early. I think that the offending alarm ended up getting relocated from the night stand to the floor in an effort to put some distance between me and the buzzing.
Why would a wardrobe girl have her alarm set to go off at O' Dark thirty you may ask.
The answer is a 10:30 matinee.
There were two of these this week and two last week and there will be two more next week.
I used to be a waitress. I worked the lunch shift and would often go in and open and get cut after the lunch rush. This could mean getting done with work by 1:30 or 2 depending on how busy the place was and how many servers were on. When I first started working on student matinees it always reminded me of working a lunch shift. You went in for a couple hours and then you were done and you had made your money for the day.
Even though I get up early to get to the gym and work out and spend part of my day writing there is a difference between getting checking my facebook at 9 and being at work at 9.
So I have been going to work early, sometimes before people who work during the actual day get there and I have been done with work by 1.
The writing schedule that I had been so good at sticking to is long forgotten although I did write a little today.
This morning the sound guy actually said "morning" instead of grunting a greeting like yesterday.
Next week is our last 10:30 matinee of this run which is celebrated by Jammie Breakfast in which the Wardrobe girls cook eggs and bacon for the cast, crew and well pretty much anyone who is drawn in by the scent of bacon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Showtime Repair Kit

Today my friend KT called me to see if I wanted to go to Michael's for craft supplies for the Grown up Shrinky Dink Party she is hosting this week.
I'm always up for a visit to the craft store so I said yes.
When we went to aisle 11 to find the grown up scissors I found this little gem.

That's right, it's the "Showtime Repair Kit" Ideal for Recitals, plays, cheer and dance events and other performances.
As a seasoned wardrobe girl I can say that this does include the basics that any good wardrobe girl or boy would need.
This kit includes buttons, bobby pins, double sided tape, hook and loop circles, pre-threaded needles, safety pins, scissors, seam ripper and straight pins.

Although I have my own all of these things in my station I was sucked in by the pink packaging, the promise of being perfect for plays and cheer performances and the amazing folding lint brush.
I'm not sure I can actually imagine using this tiny lint brush but I guess it could do in an extreme emergency
But now I have a pair of scissors and a seam ripper in the preferred color of wardrobe girls- black.
So I give this kit a thumbs up for the folding lint brush, the pink packaging and the supplies.

The trip to the $1 section at Michael's also inspired me to participate in CC Secret Santa game. So whoever is lucky enough to have me as their SS will get totally awesome Santa Soap, Santa Pez and a candy cane striped journal. Now all I need is some candy and I'll be set to go.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

90 minute cardio workout

So it it back to that holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, this year. Actually we opened about a week ago.
The big change in this year's production is the fact that it has been cut to 90 minutes with no intermission. Apparently patrons wanted a shorter play so we gave it to them
The first time we ran this show it was total chaos backstage. From the front no one could tell that it looked like a herd of Victorian college kids had moved in and thrown their clothes every where backstage. Things were in discard piles that actually needed to be tracked. There is a great deal of do or die tracking in this show.
I missed three changes upstairs because I was trying to convince an actor downstairs that it was indeed time to change.
Fortunately the second time was better and it is up and running smoothly now.

It does still feel a little like a 90 minute cardio workout. I signed up for something called the Frosty Challenge at work. The Challenge is not to gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Years. I'm kinda thinking with this show it isn't going to be a problem. Not only do I go up and down the stairs about 4 or 5 times while doing my presets but I go up and down the stairs three more times during the show. Needless to say when they asked if I wanted info on walking or climbing stairs in the building as part of the Frosty Challenge I declined. Not only am I running around backstage I also don't have time to eat during the show at all. No time to stop in the crew office and have doughnuts or cookies. Maybe I should look into those Goo packets that runners "eat".

Sunday, November 8, 2009

40 years of Sesame Street

Well Sesame Street turns 40 this week.
When I first graduated from college I worked at a place making costumes for the Sesame Street Live tours. I remember ten years ago celebrating 30 years of Sesame Street and 25(?) years of Sesame Street Live tours.
My time there was fun but I was so young. I remember when I first got the job out of college thinking that working with Sesame Street Live things was like a dream come true and I guess that for a while it was. But after a while it became a little mundane for me. I was also young and hadn't yet learned how to balance work and social life yet. I ended up quitting after two years when I came to the realization that I was making more money at my evening and weekend waitress job. After completing years of school and college I think I just wanted to have fun.
When I quit it was sort of sad for me. I had gotten a couple bad reviews at my annual review times. Partially I think it is because I wasn't properly trained in on the processes they wanted us to use and partially because I was having a lot of boyfriend drama that was leading to depression. When I left there I thought I would never work in theater again. I was sure that even if I wanted to the two years I spent there would haunt me.
That did not happen. After waiting tables for about 6 months I got slowly back into theater and realized that it was still a passion. I think that because of those two years I try to maintain a level of professionalism where I work. I always try to give my best because I feel so thankful that I was given a second chance at theater. When I'm having a bad day I just think about how lucky I am to be where I am.
So Happy Birthday Sesame Street.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Laundromat reviews

I took on this laundry gig while I was off from my regular job.
I am just wrapping up the last of the laundry for the show. First of all let me say if I knew the laundry was going to be 3 double loaders full of laundry I never would have taken it on. But I did and now it is finished.
As a result of taking on this gig I have spent a lot of time at the laundromat over the last month because my condo building is not prepared to handle this much laundry for a show. If it had been two loads like it was the first day then maybe I could have gotten away with it but once it became apparent that it was three heaping laundry baskets full I realized that the only way to get it done and respect my neighbors would be the laundromat.
The two laundromats I spent a lot of time at were the Ultra Wash on Bloomington Ave. This laundromat is also home to Ultra Tan although I have never seen any tanning customers while I have been there. The prices seem good with the double loaders at $2.25, the triple loaders at $4.25 and the Mega loaders at $5.50. Drying is .25 for 6 minutes.
The space is kept clean and orderly by the attendants and they are always there to help with questions or issues with the machine.
Like all good laundromats the Ultra Wash has a TV which during the weekdays often have some version of Justice on, Judge Hackett, judge Joe Brown. If there are kids there they might have some PBS on.
No laundromat would be complete without a little Ms. Pac Man, which they have. They also have Soul Caliber.
The other laundromat I went to was the Vend-a-wash on Chicago and Lake. The benefit to this laundromat is that it is open 24 hours.
Think the neighborhood is sketchy? Don't worry. They lock the doors at night, there is always an attendant on duty and the attendant will help you bring laundry to and from your car.
This laundromat has everything. A jukebox that plays some current hits as well as many spanish hits. I think I heard one song in English and the rest were Spanish.
The laundry is a little more expensive here coming in at $3. for the double loaders $5 for the triple and I didn't even check the mega loaders. The dry is more expensive too. .25 will get you 5 minutes. But there are lots of tables for folding and the place is always attended so I guess you pay extra for that.
Besides the Jukebox they also feature a popcorn machine, the machines that dispense stickers and wattoos and sticky spider toys. They also have a claw machine.
Laundry wise they have a huge 10 load washer that is good for washing rugs and stuff and they have the pressing machines.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

matching sexy costumes

I know Hallowwen was yesterday so this post may seem a little late. However experience has taught me that there are a lot of procrastinators out there. So this may help people get a jump on next years costume.
The other day after a long day of renting out costumes we were sitting around talking about Halloween costumes. The subject of the "sexy costumes" came up. OK so these are the short little dresses that are made for grown up women. They are low cut and fitted in the bodice and then have a short skirt. Sexy witch, sexy pirate, sexy maid, sexy Dorothy, sexy devil. The only thing that really changes is the colors and sometimes the bodice but the fit is the same. They even sell patterns for the "sexy" costumes for the DIY girls. Here are some examples of a sexy Wizard Of Oz look.
Now there are places who sell matching sexy costumes for humans and their pets. Check out I was unaware that chihuahuas could feel sexy.

There are two things that make me sad about this.
1. I only found out about this on Oct. 30th.
2. They only come in XS, S and M. If they came in L or XL I would want to get one for my 20 pound cat. Also where is the love for the German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers or English Bulldogs who wanted to be Sexy Pirates or Sexy School Girls?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

The last week I have been working at the warehouse helping people rent costumes for Halloween.
This has been fun. It is like being a wardrobe girl as you get to find all the pieces that go with a costume and put it all together for the customer.
It has been really fun seeing some of the costumes come together. Today I dressed a pirate, a gypsy, a pheasant and a salsa dancer.
So here is the thing I notice. At this point in the game when we are just a day away from Halloween it seems like people are just paralyzed with the idea of making a decision. This is the point where you would actually have to commit to being a pirate or a roman soldier or a vampire or whatever.
I notice that a lot of people come having no idea what they want to be. The idea of making a decision is sort of overwhelming and so they try on things and then decided to maybe come back tomorrow. Really tomorrow. What about all the parties on Halloween Eve since Halloween is on a Saturday this year it means and extra day of parties. Some of these have turned out really fun and others still have no idea what to be so they leave no closer to a costume than before. It is kind of a bummer.
Sometimes people want to be someone. They don't want to explain that they are a pirate or a devil or a cavalier or Jane Austen. They want you to look at them and know that they are Little Bo Peep or a hippy or the Queen of Hearts.
The other thing is that people who procrastinate are also reluctant to spend money. I walked into work today to find that a costume I rented out the other day got cancelled. So I guess that people have this huge buyers remorse but what they don't realize is that maybe they could win a costume contest and pay for their Halloween fun.
Also at this point in the procrastination game people say "Oh I could buy that a black cape at Target for $15." Really? Have you been to Target? Cause I was there just there this morning and unless you are four or have four legs there isn't much selection left so good luck finding a cape at any of the cheap retail stores.

When I used to work in the costume shop at another theater where we did not rent Halloween costumes people were always calling around Halloween to find costumes. Here is how that conversation goes.
Customer: Do you rent costumes?
Me: We rent to schools and theaters who are doing plays?
Customer: Well it's for a school Halloween party/ fundraiser.
Me: Well it is going to be at least $150.
Customer: Oh No that's to much. Do you know anyplace that has costumes.
Me: (rattle off names of places who rent/sell costumes)
Customer: Do you have the phone numbers of those places.
Me: um they should be in the phone book or on the internet

Sunday, October 25, 2009

King of Shadows

I'm off work and using the time to go see some plays.
When I tell people I work in theater I think they imagine that I get to see a lot of plays and I guess that technically I get to see the plays from a different perspective. But I do get to see a fair amount of shows.
The play "King of Shadows" by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa at Pillsbury House Theater is a show that has been on my to see list since it opened at the beginning of (R)October. With only one more week left to see this show I decided to get myself down to the Pillsbury House and see it.
First of all I love this theater. It is in my neighborhood and it is small but they do really excellent work.
The play is directed by Randy Reyes and is about a homeless youth, Nihar, who is befriended by a social worker, Jessica.
Nihar, played by Qadir Kahn, is homeless and survives by selling sex. After Jessica,(Catherine Johnson Justice) interviews him for her book he asks if he can crash at her house for a couple of days. Jessica is the guardian for her teenage sister Sarah (Taj Ruler) and she is dating a cop, Eric (Josh Foldy).
Nihar predicts the weather and tells a story of the King of Shadows and the Green Lady who he believes stole him from his real parents and took him to live in their world. He is trying to escape The King of Shadows and the Green Lady.
Jessica wants to believe Nihar and to help him. Trust is a huge part of the play as Nihar has to trust Jessica enough to let her interview him and then he asks her if he can stay at her house and she has to trust him enough to let him stay.
It is suspenseful as you wonder what is reality and what is myth created for survival.
Overall I think this play is good and would highly recommend it to friends.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

wash in delicate

My favorite baseball team is in the post season. After wearing my favorite Twins shirt for four of the last 5 days I decided it was time to wash it before going to watch the tiebreaker with friends.
When I posted my facebook status that I washed my shirts one of my friends (a Cubs fan???) told me that I washed all the "luck" out of the shirt.
OK first of all I was a little upset at her for jinxing my new favorite shirt but it is OK because I am a professional wardrobe girl.
As a professional wardrobe girl I have done my fair share of laundry with glitter and sparkles and lace and motifs. Needless to say I know how to take care of laundry. I think this extends to luck. I believe that I can wash a shirt without washing the luck out. I wash in cold water on the delicate cycle. I air dry or tumble dry low.
That is how a wardrobe girl keeps her Twins shirt lucky.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Today I was in my writing class and it was my turn to workshop my chapter. That means that people will give praise and then ask questions.
I must have gotten that deer in headlights look because my instructors encouraged me to not give up and whatever.
OK the deer in headlights thing is just a look I get when I'm processing stuff sometimes. I'm tough. I'm resilient. I don't give up. I can handle workshops.
But it made me think how being a wardrobe girl has prepared me for writing criticism.
As a wardrobe girl part of my job is to take care of my actors. This means telling them that they are beautiful, thin, talented. It means telling them that the audience loves them. It means always encouraging. It means listening to my actors. Sometimes it means cheering for my actor while they are getting ready before they go onstage. So since I can do this for other people I can do this for myself.
One thing that I love about theater is the amount of courage it takes to get up in front of an audience and tell a story. To enter into a contract with a different audience every and portray a character. It takes a bravery that I am in awe of every day.
I admire the process of creating the art.
But I like to think that being in the presence of this bravery every day has made me a better writer. It has gotten me to the point where I can put my work out there and take suggestions and compliments and be a better writer.
Seeing the process of the way a play comes together makes me realize that writing is a living ever changing thing too. When I think of how every time I read certain books I feel differently it feels like the same way when I feel when I see plays. Every performance has the chance to show me something different.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last night I closed the show I was working on. I have to say that I was very sad to see the show end since I love the people and the music of the show.
So when we get a cast list for a show many of my coworkers go on google/IMDB to see who we will be working with. Before we had computers for use at work this was usually just done by looking in the bio in the program.
My fellow coworkers googled and found out that Tina Fabriqe, the actress playing Ella, sang the Reading Rainbow.
So at the closing night all of us 30 year olds gathered round and she treated us to a live and in person performance of the song.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Work and Identity

I work in theater. When I tell people where I work they usually ask lots of questions. Then one of three things happens.
Thing 1. My job is not interesting or important enough for them. They have to mend this in their mind. Next time I am introduced by them they say "This is Carrie. She is in charge of all the costumes at _________. " Then I have to say oh no and explain my job for real so people don't get the wrong idea about me or my duties.
I have often wondered about this need for other people to elevate me from mere Wardrobe Girl to some sort of Super Costume Woman. Over the years I have decided that it has more to do with people needing to feel more important. If they know someone who works somewhere cool it sounds even cooler and more important if they have a cool job.
Thing 2. When people know where I work I often get introduced in terms of my work. "This is Carrie. She works at _________."
This is a little less annoying because it does sometimes prove a good icebreaker for me to talk about what I do. People ask me lots of questions. But sometimes it makes me wonder because I don't always introduce people in terms of where they work. I also wonder if I would be half as fascinating if I worked in an office filing TPS reports. It is good because it pulls me out of my shell.
Thing 3. Sometimes discussion about my work leads to lots of questions and I end up feeling like I unintentionally derail the normal set path of something like a writing class because people want to talk about my job for way longer than they would want to talk about me if I was a waitress or something.
I start a new writing class on Monday which will mean meeting new people and lots of new conversations about what I do. I'm looking forward to my class and will have to send them here if they want to know about my job.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shoe Shine Girl

When I was a kid I would watch my Dad shine his shoes every week. This was in the early eighties when people who worked in offices with computers wore suits, at least when other people were going to be at the office.
My Dad was a computer programmer but he also called himself an engineer. Since I watched a lot of Sesame Street I was sure that engineer meant someone who drove the train. I knew from Sesame Street that a train engineer wore striped bib overalls and a matching hat. But every day Dad put on a suit and tie. I never understood why he would need to wear a suit to be an engineer. I think I figured that he changed when he got to work or something.
But every week Dad would break out the shoe polish and the shoe brush and he would polish his wing tip shoes and I would watch and talk to him while he went about his shoe polishing task.
I know that a lot of men learned the art of shining shoes from their fathers but I guess I did too. I also learned the art of tying a tie from watching my Dad get ready every morning.
This has actually served me well in my job since I sometimes have to shine shoes that are in the shows. Whenever I shine shoes for a show I always remember sitting and watching my Dad shine his shoes.
Sometimes I see ads on Craigslist for shoe shine girls under the Events sections and although I'm not sure if I want to shine shoes as a job I know that I could. I also usually see a Shoe Shine Girl at the airport when I travel. This gives me hope. Besides sewing and dressing and food service I have yet another skill that I can market- shoe shining.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Last night I had a crazy dream which reminded me of my favorite crazy backstage dream.
Once I dreamed that I showed up for work not wearing my ninja quiet monochromatic black converse. Instead I was wearing tap shoes.
I am constantly worried about noisy shoes backstage ever since I worked at a theater that was just a big concrete square with a metal roof. I tend to work on quieter plays on my stage as opposed to musicals. This has led me on an obsessive search of the most quiet shoes.
But in my dream I am wearing tap shoes. So I am running around backstage and up and down the voms to all my quick changes in tap shoes. I think that there are times I tried to tip toe in the tap shoes but they still made noise.
I woke up from this dream highly entertained unlike the dream I had last night. It has always been one of my most highly entertaining theater dreams.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Code of Ethics

I found this on the internet.

A 1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers Surfaces

by Janet Thielke | August 11, 2009

While appearing on Broadway in her Tony-nominated role of Jeanette in The Full Monty in August, 2001, Equity member Kathleen Freeman died of lung cancer. Equity Councillor Jane A. Johnston, a longtime friend and executrix for Ms. Freeman’s estate, later discovered among Ms. Freeman’s papers a document containing A Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers. Ms. Freeman was a daughter of a small time vaudevillian team. Her childhood experience of touring with her parents inspired this Code of Ethics, Ms. Johnston writes. She also notes: “What is particularly interesting about this list of dos and don’ts for the theatre is that it was written in 1945 when Kathleen was establishing one of the first small theatres in Los Angeles and she was 24 years old. I wish I had been told some of ‘the rules’ when I was a young actress instead of having to pick them up as I went along.”

The theatre was the Circle Players (with Charlie Chaplin among its backers), which later evolved into the Players’ Ring. Although there is no record that either company used an Equity contract (they certainly pre-dated the 99-Seat Code in Los Angeles), Ms. Johnston confirms that all the participants were professionals.

Foreword to the Code:

“A part of the great tradition of the theatre is the code of ethics which belong to every worker in the theatre. This code is not a superstition, nor a dogma, nor a ritual which is enforced by tribunals; it is an attitude toward your vocation, your fellow workers, your audiences and yourself. It is a kind of self-discipline which does not rob you of your invaluable individualism.

“Those of you who have been in show business know the full connotation of these precepts. Those of you who are new to show business will soon learn. The Circle Players, since its founding in 1945, has always striven to stand for the finest in theatre, and it will continue to do so. Therefore, it is with the sincere purpose of continued dedication to the great traditions of the theatre that these items are here presented.”

The “rules” follow:

1. I shall never miss a performance.
2. I shall play every performance with energy, enthusiasm and to the best of my ability regardless of size of audience, personal illness, bad weather, accident, or even death in my family.
3. I shall forego all social activities which interfere with rehearsals or any other scheduled work at the theatre, and I shall always be on time.
4. I shall never make a curtain late by my failure to be ready on time.
5. I shall never miss an entrance.
6. I shall never leave the theatre building or the stage area until I have completed my performance, unless I am specifically excused by the stage manager; curtain calls are a part of the show.
7. I shall not let the comments of friends, relatives or critics change any phase of my work without proper consultation; I shall not change lines, business, lights, properties, settings or costumes or any phase of the production without consultation with and permission of my director or producer or their agents, and I shall inform all people concerned.
8. I shall forego the gratification of my ego for the demands of the play.
9. I shall remember my business is to create illusion; therefore, I shall not break the illusion by appearing in costume and makeup off-stage or outside the theatre.
10. I shall accept my director’s and producer’s advice and counsel in the spirit in which it is given, for they can see the production as a whole and my work from the front.
11. I shall never “put on an act” while viewing other artists’ work as a member of an audience, nor shall I make caustic criticism from jealousy or for the sake of being smart.
12. I shall respect the play and the playwright and, remembering that “a work of art is not a work of art until it is finished,” I shall not condemn a play while it is in rehearsal.
13. I shall not spread rumor or gossip which is malicious and tends to reflect discredit on my show, the theatre, or any personnel connected with them-either to people inside or outside the group.
14. Since I respect the theatre in which I work, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to such work or not.
15. I shall handle stage properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.
16. I shall follow rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life (and especially in a business in close contact with the public) when I am in the theatre, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre where I work.
17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.

In addition, the document continued:
“I understand that membership in the Circle Theatre entitles me to the privilege of working, when I am so assigned, in any of the phases of a production, including: props, lights, sound, construction, house management, box office, publicity and stage managing-as well as acting. I realize it is possible I may not be cast in a part for many months, but I will not allow this to dampen my enthusiasm or desire to work, since I realize without my willingness to do all other phases of theatre work, there would be no theatre for me to act in.”
All members of the Circle Theatre were required to sign this document. And they must have-because the theatre, and the group into which it evolved, was successful for many years.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yesterday I amazed even myself on a trip to the Mall of America.
Here is how I got conned into going to the Mega Mall.
Mom: Well I think I'm going to go into Goodwill* and see if I can find anything to wear to the wedding.*
Me: Mom, no. You are not going to find black tie at the Goodwill. We'll go to the mall when you come to visit.
Mom: Really? Are you sure? Do you think they'll have something?
Me: Yes. We'll go to Nordstom Rack and find you something really nice.
Mom: OK
So we go to The Rack. I got a little distracted by some Smart Wool socks but then I switched into costume girl mode and found a fabulous dress for my mom By Alex Evenings.
It was kind of magical that we found it and even the cashier was impressed with our find.
It is absolutely wonderful and after a little altering it will be perfect for the wedding.
I have to admit that I feel very skilled. Not only did I find my mom the perfect dress but I also altered it. So my dresser skills carry over into real life and have come in very handy during this summer's wedding season.
*Mom claims she said she was going to an upscale second hand store, not Goodwill.
*Wedding is Black Tie requested and is causing my parents stress and confusion as they try to figure out what is appropriate attire and come to grips with my step father buying a black suit that was made in this decade, not his grey suit from 1973.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The most successful

When I was in college one of the toughest things I had to do was to convince my parents that I really could work in theater and support myself.
The first summer I work in summer stock I worked crazy hours and made no money. My parents knew how much I worked because the theater was in the same town as my dad. That fall I needed some money for a car repair so I went to the bank of Mom and when the bank of Mom would not approve my loan I went to the bank of Dad. The Bank of Dad told me that he would give me this loan but it would be the last loan and that if I was going to work in theater I was going to have to figure out how to not ask him for money.
Since I was in my junior year I felt a little past the point of switching majors I decided that I would have to make it work.
Also by this time I loved what I was doing.
So I've worked hard over the years and been smart with my money and with work. Sometimes with work it is feast of famine meaning that there will be times when there is more work than I could ever handle followed by times when there is no work at all. But I think that this pressure to prove to my parents that my job is real and can support me has put me in a better financial state than my siblings who did not have to prove that nursing or engineering were good careers. My brother has yet to land a job in his field and my sister quit nursing after a couple years.
So as I pointed out to my dad a couple years ago, technically I'm his most successful kid.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advice from Musical Theater

Yesterday was the official start of my part time gig in the costume shop.
The day started with the typical drama of theater when my cutter/draper called me the night before to see if I could give her a ride to work since her car had broken down. So out the window go my plans to run three miles before work and to stay a little later so I can leave early on Friday.
I started on lead boy pants as if I had never left and knew what I was doing. OK those men's pants with the flap front are hard but I survived. Then I put a new back on a vest and made a mock up for a skirt.
My favorite thing of being back in the shop is the musical selection. Oh how I have missed having access to every musical ever made.
After listening to MPR all morning which was really good and had a very confirming story on living adventurous lives from No map. No guide. No Limits I felt good about my decision to focus more on writing.
Yesterday's music was Wicked, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book and Gypsy the 2008 production with Patti LuPone.
The advice that I was able to get from musical theater yesterday was a gem from Gypsy "You gotta get a gimmick if you want to get ahead."
Ever since then I have been thinking, What is my gimmick? Is it my new found talent for hula hooping? Is it writing?
Probably half the fun in life is trying to find a gimmick.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quick-Change Turrets

Yesterday I was reminded of a condition that I like to call Quick Change Turrets. No one I am working with right now has QCT. But I was reminded of the condition during a conversation yesterday and I thought it would make a good blog post.
Quick Change Turrets is when an actor comes off stage for a quick change and begins swearing. It should be noted that they aren't actually swearing at their dresser but just swearing in the stress of having to change a suit or dress in 30 seconds.
The pressure of changing an entire costume in 30 seconds causes this. They worry they will not make an entrance or that if they make the entrance it will be without some essential item like pants. So they begin a string of swear words that would make a sailor proud.
Not every actor is prone to QCT. Some actors use quick change time to worry about if the audience loves them or not. Some talk about other outside of work things. During a quick change the perfect actor will not try to "help". "Helping" can be defined as anything other than standing still and allowing other people to dress them. Perfect actors will stand still and resist the urge to help button or zip things. They will not reach for their shoes while you are trying to zip a bodice.
A wardrobe girl or quick change artist must have a tough skin. Sometimes we have to remember that an actor is not swearing at us but at the change or the suit or the fact that the playwright only gave them 30 seconds to change a costume.
It is important to remember that in two weeks the change will be so smooth and fast it will feel like you have tons of time. You and your actor will be joking about drinking cocktails or smoking cigarettes during the change because that is how much time they have. Quick Change Turrets will be a distant but funny memory.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm not Goth, I just wear a lot of black

Most of the summer has been below average, temperature wise. But this last week has been in the 90's.
That is great. Summer finally arrived.
But it isn't so awesome when most of your wardrobe is black.
People who work backstage wear black. This is so you will blend into the darkness of backstage instead of sticking out in a white shirt. It even gives this tip in the Backstage Handbook that I had in college.
The majority of my wardrobe is black. I have a drawer that is devoted to black jeans and another drawer that is devoted to black shirts and tops. I have a black hoodie for every day of the week. Sometimes despite the fact that I am a grown up people will think that I am still stuck in some high school goth phase. Despite my black converse they never think I am going through a ninja phase.
It has been 90 degrees for the last week. On really hot days like today I wish that I owned less black.
Today for example I went outside and set up the new hose hider for my condo. It was so hot out I nearly did not complete the task.
I also wish I owned less black when I am off from work. I long for different colors but standing in front of really cute tops that are not black I can't figure out when I would wear them.
The funny thing about wearing all this black in the heat is that once I get to work it is freezing cold. Seriously I wear a sweatshirt backstage and I am still cold. It is so cold that the actors don't even want to stand backstage when it is time for places.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stitchin and Bitchin

Well Monday starts a seven week gig working in a costume shop.
I have worked at this costume shop for the last eight years and actually feel like I owe this costume shop my eternal gratitude for the job that I have right now. It was in this windowless costume shop where I first sat next to my current boss and she asked me if I had ever worked on wardrobe for a show before. Oh it turned out that I had and the rest is history.
The thing is that I happen to be really shy. I would never have applied at the theater I work at now because I would have been convinced that I did not have the experience to work there. So thank goodness for the costume shop where I met my boss and got my job.
But this loyalty to the shop led to burnout as I was working full time as a wardrobe girl at night and full time as a stitcher during the day.
A couple years ago I had one of those awakening moments where I realized what I wanted to do was be a writer. I mean I have always written and I have filled up journals for the last decade but I wanted other people to read what I wrote. This meant that one of the jobs had to go.
The economy sucks which meant a little creative planning.
So now I am returning as a part time stitcher for a build on my terms, two days a week. I'll still have time to write and I'll have a little extra money/work for a while.
I'm sure I will have great stories to tell from this experience.
Conversations in the shop often range from musicals to politics to who would play you in the Hollywood version of your life story. We often talk about the TV sitcom about our shop which would be called Shop Talk. So hopefully it will be a good experience.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I want to be a Producer

Well I don't really want to be a producer but I sounded like one the other day.
The midwest is home to much severe weather and while it is unlikely that a tornado will make its way through downtown often the suburbs will experience a tornado touch down. This summer has not been full of much severe weather. It hasn't been hot meaning we haven't had the fronts moving through that would cause severe weather.
The other night we had some severe weather and the sirens were going off and there were tornados sighted in the suburbs so we had to go through what the protocol for severe weather was.
Basically it is to get everyone in one of the theaters as these are the safest spaces. So being the wonderful dresser I am I encouraged the cast to just keep singing/playing since they were already in the safest place they could be in.
Fortunately the storms went to the north of the city and we did not have to put my advice into action.
But I was told as I was giving my words of advice that I sounded like a producer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Product I can't live without

OK well it is summer in MN which means wedding season is in full effect. So far this summer I have altered 1 bridesmaid dress, 1 wedding dress and I have one more bridesmaid dress that I will be altering soon. I have a cousin getting married in September.
I have been an attendant or bridesmaid at a number of weddings in my day. Actually being a personal attendant is like being a dresser so it is something that I already know how to do and am fairly prepared for.
With all these weddings I can't help but talk about my favorite item to bring to a wedding. Double stick tape.
Whenever I attend a wedding I always have a roll in my purse. Well except this one wedding where I actually forgot to bring it but totally could have used it.
Here are some uses for double stick tape at weddings.
1. Use it to make sure your strapless bridesmaid dress is not going to fall down or your wedding gown or whatever. Dress strap not staying where you want it. Tape it there.
2. Use it to hem a groomsman's/dad's/usher's pants. Cause seriously you know that one of these people will inevitably forget to get their pants hemmed. a few strategically placed pieces of double stick tape and they are ready to dance the night away.
3. Are your flower girl/ring bearer shoes a little too big. Stick a piece of double stick tape in the back of the show so that they have a better chance of staying on when they walk up the aisle.
4. Well it is still tape so it can be used to tape pretty much anything in place from vows at the podium to the order of the service. Whatever it's tape.
When navigating which double stick tape to buy a girl might be tempted by the "Hollywood Tape" that usually resides in the bra section of places like Target. It claims to be the "secret of Hollywood stars" If paying more for something in a pink package with the word Hollywood makes a person feel better go for it. It is your day and whatever. But really the secret is wardrobe girls and guys have been using plain old double stick tape long before they put it in glamourous "Hollywood" packaging.
I recommend taking your little shopping basket over to the office supply section and buying one of two thing. Either the Scotch brand double stick tape that I think comes with the yellow packaging or the 3M Poster tape. The poster tape is really nice because unlike the Scotch brand they put a little paper over one of the sticky sides so that it is covered until you want to use it. This means that you don't have to waste tape.
When the wedding is over you will probably still have tape left over. Save it for the next wedding you go to. You never know when you will have the chance to save someone's special day with you super awesome wardrobe powers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Once I carried Steven Tyler's Luggage

I keep seeing little news blips about Steven Tyler falling off the stage at a performance at Sturgis.

Poor Steven Tyler.

So I can't say that I have worked with Steven Tyler although I did stand around waiting to carry his luggage to the limo after a performance a few years ago.
He was on the phone with Liv. He kept trying to hang up cause he was busy. He was like "Liv, I'll call you back. I'm working on the commercial for _________."
I have to say that he is much smaller in person than I think he is going to be. I mean I know that the stage makes people taller but he is really not very tall also he is skinny.
Waiting to carry Steven Tyler's luggage was one of the more awesome moments of my life. It was one of those times where I did not wish I had some "normal" day job where I did something boring like file TPS reports all day.
When you work backstage you have to be pretty cool about other people's fame. You can not act like a fan. It isn't professional. I mean think about it. Would you want to come to work and sign autographs for the people at your office? I mean it might be cool for a minute but it would get really old fast if people were trying to get you to sign something so for their daughters friend or whatever.
I must admit that this was one of those moments when it was hard to remain cool. I mean here I was, standing outside a rock star's dressing room.
So I took a breath and pretended to be a little bored. As in "Oh carry rock star luggage. Yeah I do that all the time." Eventually he finished on the phone and was whisked away in his Limo as quickly as he had arrived.
So anyway I hope he heals up quickly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Laundry tip of the day

So you are going along in your day and you cut yourself. Maybe you nick yourself shaving or slice your finger in the kitchen or get a bloody nose. Unfortunately you get a little blood on your jeans or your favorite shirt.
Don't worry. Spit on it. That's right your own spit will get out your own blood. So if the blood hasn't dried give it a little spit.
Every time I tell an actor or a fellow costume person this they are amazed at how well it works.
I had a wardrobe friend who had kids and after she had her kids she had super spit and could get out not only her own spit but her children's spit as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

the beginning

So how does a self-proclaimed shy girl end up in show business?
Trial and Error and an undecided major in college.
When I was four I dreamed of becoming a ballerina. I imagined wearing a tutu every day and pirouetting through life.
My mom enrolled me in a combination tap/ballet class only we did not have the money for tap and ballet shoes. This meant that for the tap portion of the class I wore a pair of brown Mary Jane’s. For the ballet portion of the class I wore my Spiderman bedroom slippers.
I began to dread going to class. This was not the ballet I had seen in little clips on Sesame Street. There were no pink slippers. There were no tutus and then there was that flap-ball-change which was not ballet at all.
The culmination of this class was a recital for the parents. I had already been in holiday pageants at my preschool and getting up in front of people was not for me. Most of the recital was spent with me red faced and crying on stage. The only good thing was that I got to wear a tutu.
My next flirtations with the stage came in late grade school through high school years. My mom got remarried landing me in the kid’s choir in my step dad’s church. My new aunt was the director of the choir, which could be a good thing if I had been able to sing. I couldn’t so I ended up changing the foam core set from clubhouse to Noah’s Arc. I also made sure the props got passed to the little kids.
I remained active in my church’s drama group through high school. During a dinner theater production my role was to be waitress. Not the waitress onstage but an actual waitress during the dinner theater portion. Since this was not what I signed up for and I was already a hostess at a restaurant I quit drama group.
At school I would show up to auditions only to chicken out before actually auditioning. I did show up to help build sets which was kind of fun.
In high school my dream of what I wanted to be when I grew up changed. I wanted to be an editor of Sassy magazine. I practiced for this by being the news editor on my high school paper. But I was still shy especially when it came to interviewing people.
Fast forward to college during a time when it was just becoming ok to enter with an undecided major. So that is what I did. I loved English and thought I might do something with that so I ended up with an English Professor advisor.
*Small world story my advisor in Iowa was a childhood friend with my Aunt’s sister who lived in New York. Meaning my advisor grew up in the same town in Upstate New York as my Mom.
So my English advisor advised me to a theater class and I was hooked. I volunteered in the costume shop sewing muscles on an alien costume and then I worked wardrobe for a show. From then on there was no turning back. I had found my place on the stage was actually backstage. I was in show business, baby.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Dresser Diaries

Ok so people blog about everything right. People blog about cake and people blog about cooking. People blog about parenthood and pet ownership. Some even blog about work.
I've always thought my job was interesting. When books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada I thought wouldn't it be cool to write about my job.
But I didn't. Why? Because while most people can relate to being a nanny not a lot of people can imagine what it is like to be a dresser at a theater.
That's what I do. I'm a dresser or if you want to be fancy I'm a wardrobe technician.
When you go and see a play and an actor goes off stage only to return seconds later in a completely different costume, that's me and my fellow wardrobians.
But I do more than that really. I pass out laundry. I do minor repairs or sometimes major repairs. I make sure my actors have water or tissues or Throat Coat Tea.
While theater goers are enjoying their dinner or just leaving for the show I am getting to work. After the audience has filed out and gotten in their cars I am bringing laundry to the laundry room to be cleaned for the next performance.