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Posts Tagged ‘amateur theatre’

Last week I directed ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club – hence why I’ve been awol again.

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Everything was going swimmingly until two weeks from show week we discovered that we didn’t have First World War period evening dresses for ‘Bob’ and Lieutenant George in the ‘Major Star’ episode. Nothing in the Club stock and nothing available at the place we were hiring the uniforms from. It was too late to buy the dresses available on eBay as they were in China and so the only option was to make them. That job ended up on my plate.

I can sew. I can use a sewing machine and I made the tree costumes several years ago for one of our pantos, but that was under supervision from my mum, who is an experienced dressmaker. This was going to be flying solo with a deadline and with the memory of my one and only other excursion into making clothes hanging over my head.

My first needlework project at middle school was to make a blouse so my mum equipped me with a paper blouse pattern and some horrible yellow polyester. In the first lesson it obviously didn’t occur to my needlework teacher to tell a class of eleven-year olds that when you have a paper pattern from which you can make different versions of a garment, you only need the pieces for the style you plan to make. I did as I was told: I opened the packet, cut out all the tracing paper pieces, pinned them onto the fabric and cut every one out. I was then promptly held up to ridicule in front of the whole class. I never did finish it and that was the end of my sewing for a long while.

So I bought a pattern, hunted through the Club’s fabric stock for something that would be suitable for evening dresses and ten days before show week, I made a start on the first frock. It was…interesting. And challenging. And thank goodness a) I’m not working at the moment because I ended up pulling some seriously long days and b) I was able to ring my mum and get her advice when I couldn’t make head or tail of the instructions or the pictures. It was not the straightforward pattern I had hoped for as a complete novice.

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My 90 year old Frister and Rossmann coped superbly with taffeta, lace, satin and organza. Multiple layers? No problem? Different fabrics? Easy. I love that machine sooooo much!

Frister and Rossmann

There was a lot of hand stitching and finishing as well – the Friday before our Sunday Get-In I stitched for thirteen hours with breaks for cooking and eating meals, but I am pretty pleased with the results. Firstly, Bob’s dress.

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There wasn’t enough of the floral print for a whole dress but the taffeta matched the turquoise flowers perfectly and she was literally on stage in it for less than three minutes.

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George’s dress had to be made for a very tall and skinny bloke, which was another interesting challenge, but thanks to the purple lace I found in a box while looking for something else, I think this one worked a treat.

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My middle one loves it and had to be dissuaded from taking it back to university with her!

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I’m proud of the back.

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Well out of my comfort zone, but I think I may have finally laid the ghost of that bloody awful yellow blouse. And the show was a triumph too.

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As well as doing the costume for our panto last week, I was also the dame’s ‘dresser’. Those elaborate costumes can be difficult to put on, especially with hoops underneath some of the full-skirted frocks, and constant changes of wigs, shoes, jewellery etc. so we always have someone whose specific job is to help. This, naturally, means being at the theatre for every performance.

Spending every evening backstage for a week is a bit of a long haul after a full day’s work, but there are advantages. Firstly, I was on hand for all the last minute costume tweaks and any mends that became apparent over the course of the run and secondly, in between costume changes and when there was no mending, I could actually get on with some of my own work.

First of all, I finished off the second strip of James’ patchwork cushion. Here it is, alongside the first.

Blue crazy patchwork strips 1 and 2

And then I started the feather stitching on the third strip:

Blue crazy patchwork strip 3

Blue crazy patchwork strip 3 close up

Blue crazy patchwork strip 3 butterfly end

I also finally finished off the second denim cuff book (the one with lazy daisy flowers) with a beaded spine.

Denim cuff book 2

Denim cuff books

Denim cuff book beaded spine

Denim cuff book 2 open

More to come, including a birthday card I can’t unveil until the weekend!

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Sorry, everyone, but Panto just happened in this neck of the woods and this year I volunteered to costume it. (My middle one was Principal Boy and is the tallest one in the middle of the shot (between the princess and Puss In Boots) with the dodgy medieval hat and my little one is the kitten closest to the camera on the left)

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Even though I’m lucky enough to belong to a club with its own premises and huge stock of costumes, it was still quite an undertaking. Back in November, shortly after casting, I was creating a costume plot, liaising with the director to come to a shared vision of what these characters would look like on the stage. In this scene, the dame is cleaning, so I wanted to make a costume that reflected that. She has a duster bow on her mob cap, washing up sponge/scourer buttons and rosettes of j-cloths with pan scourers centres around her skirt.

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Then there was hunting out and finding/sourcing and making. Luckily I didn’t have too many costumes to physically make, but the 17  children in the cast had 46 separate costumes alone (variously villagers, fairies, kittens, ghosts and skeletons) and they all needed hunting out of stock and fitting.

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Since Christmas it has been crazily busy, and last week I sewed solidly for 4 days,  making accessories and altering a whole load of costumes including this massive and very heavy dame’s dress (which had to have the pink modesty panel stitched into the front as well as a large insert in the back)

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and a boiler suit for the dame’s Ghostbusters costume.

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Unfortunately this is the best of several very poor shots of it – a friend of mine made the most amazing ‘screen-accurate’ proton pack complete with ‘gun’ to wear on the back and with heavy duty elbow pads, the Ghostbusters logos (which are on the tops of the sleeves) on full view, and marabou trimmed heavy gloves in the belt, it looked amazing.

Last Sunday was the get in – two trips from our Guildroom to the theatre to transport all the costumes and three plus hours steaming them (an alternative to ironing). Then I spent all week backstage mending and being the dame’s dresser until the get out last night.

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Normal service will be resumed very soon. Surprisingly enough I’m not sick of a needle yet!

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