When the lights go down and a play begins, the crew backstage goes into action and the pre-production teams breathe a sigh of relief. The “magic“ of theatre results from the close coordination among many teams to plan and present the best performance possible and let the audience to be transported by the actors, costumes and staging.
I work most closely with the designers, actors and stage managers, as well as the interns, volunteers and seamstresses on my team in the costume shop. Planning begins weeks in advance of opening night and involves hours of discussion before the costumes are started.
During those weeks, I get to know the new interns and discover their strengths and how they can fit into the costume shop team. I soon discover who excels at keeping the shop neat, has the strongest sewing skills, loves to iron or is great at crafts.
My job also requires working closely with all the actors during costume fittings and rehearsals. We solve many comfort, style, movement and character interpretation issues. My work as an image consultant comes in to play as I listen closely to their concerns, make suggestions, see what looks best on them and correct the fit of each garment. We become a mini-team as the designer, individual actors and I work together.
We interact with the scenery, lighting and sound design and production teams. There are things to watch for – a rough edge can snag a costume, a crinkly fabric can cause problems for the sound engineer. Unflattering choices by a lighting designer can muddy colors and make actors look less than their best onstage.
As opening night approached, we use the rehearsal period to schedule fittings, determine what will be needed for costume changes during a performance.
Our goal as artists and technicians to produce a great theatrical experience for our audience could not be realized without such strong teamwork.
Susan Angermann is the Costume Shop Manager at the Florida Studio Theatre, in Sarasota. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.