I have had a busy spring designing costumes for Odyssey Opera’s British Invasion Festival. The latest one is “Powder Her Face” which I have lovingly renamed the “Quick Change Opera.” While the opera can be designed in numerous ways, Director Nic Muni and I decided to fully change all the characters except for the lead. What that meant was that three, super-talented singers–Daniel Norman, Ben Wager and Amanda Hall– would be playing 15 costumed characters in the span of roughly 2 hours. What this meant for the costume, wardrobe and wig crew was that every decision–needed to be made wisely and quickly!
Backstage all these changes are like a choreographed dance between performers, two dressers and our wig designer.
I thought it might be fun to fill you in on just a few of the tricks we employed for making quick changes…
Let’s start at the top, an old trick… find a fabulous hat, add a veil, add a turban wrap, add some feathers and trim… voila new look.
Moving down from there, let’s stop at the Duchess’ jewelry. In this production there’s some parodying of the Duchess… three sets of pearl earrings and triple strand pearls. How to get them off and on quickly? For the earrings, clip ons, of course. For the necklaces, we replaced the nudgey metal clasps with magnet clasps allowing both actors and the wardrobe crew a quick way to literally pull them off.
On stage, the Mistress’ dress comes off violently. Fabulous draper Ashley Collett made it with a back velcro “zipper”. When the Duke pulls it off that ripping sound is some colored velcro stitched along the zipper line.
Finally, the “Tried and True Underdressing” was employed. There are full costume changes “hidden” under this elderly English couple! With some careful planning I was able to design a whole other look that is later revealed. This was a fun one to design!
In a world of change and in a production filled with change, it is always great to reflect on constants. In this production it was our gorgeous Duchess played by Pat Schuman. Whew, she didn’t change at all!