Another Openin’ Another Show!

Yesterday was opening night for ACT’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile and I couldn’t be more proud of the cast and the entire production staff. Hopefully this explains my  hiatus from blogging — preparing for a show is a huge time commitment. I’m so glad to have been a part of this production and I’m really happy with how the costumes came out.

Even though I wasn’t able to watch the show last night (I need to stay backstage to help with a couple of quick changes) I could certainly hear it — and the audience was roaring with laughter. This show is hilarious and the cast is immensely talented.

The last time I blogged about the show I told you about my awesome finds at a vintage shop, so let me fill you in on what I’ve been up to since then. I got a few costume pieces at the Goodwill by my school, repurposed a couple of items from my own wardrobe, ordered some items online, and picked up a couple of tricky items from a costume shop in Philadelphia. Nearly every costume needed to be altered, hemmed and embellished. All the characters have hats, wigs, coats, aprons, scarves, jewelry and purses. Since the play takes place in October, it’s more realistic for the characters to need to take off their coats when they enter. I had several discussions with the director and the set designers about adding a coat rack and hat hooks to the set. I had another long discussion with the director afterwards where we discussed which hooks the actors would use to hang their coats. Only in theatre would people spend 15 minutes talking about hanging up a coat!

I am so proud of the hard work that went into the costumes and I am especially thankful for my three lovely costume assistants who helped me so much.

So without further ado — here are the costumes for Picasso at the Lapin Agile! Let me know what you think!

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Thrifting Treasures

I had such a lovely Saturday! In addition to getting lunch with my grandmother, I spent the day running in and out of shops looking for the perfect costumes for the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. As I’ve mentioned before, Picasso takes place in France in 1904, so finding the costumes isn’t as easy as running to the mall and buying something off the rack. Costuming a show like this feels like going on a treasure hunt — and today I struck gold!

My first stop was a cute thrift shop in Moorestown, NJ. The downstairs of the shop was filled with odds and ends — everything from pillows and books to jewelry and umbrellas. I could stay there for hours sifting through all the curious objects, but today I was on a mission and I didn’t let myself get distracted. When I walked in I headed straight to the back of the store, up the rickety staircase and into the room filled with clothes. I veered past the men’s clothing and went straight for the racks of women’s clothes. Today I was costuming my actresses.

A novice costumer might come to a thrift shop armed only with her wallet and an eye for style, but I’m no novice. I came prepared. Today I brought along my arsenal — my iPad mini displaying a spreadsheet filled with the measurements of each actor, character descriptions, and an itemized list of every item of clothing that they will need.

Almost immediately I found the perfect blouse for the character Germaine. It was a cream colored button down made of 100% silk. Luckily the price was right. The tag read $5.Picture 6

Next, I found a beautiful two piece outfit for Sagot. This role is normally played by a man, but in our show the director changed the role to a female. The matching skirt and top are a pretty dark purple velvet with delicate beading. Price tag? $18 for the set. Since the top has spaghetti straps I will need to pair it with some sort of jacket.Picture 4

Hanging a few racks over was a gorgeous blue strapless dress. I picked up this dress a couple times before I decided to buy it. I’ll need to alter it a bit by adding some sleeves. It cost $40, a little more than I wanted to spend on something that will need alterations, but it was too pretty to pass up. The Countess had to have this dress.

Picture 3

Finally, I dug through some bins searching for a corset for one of my actresses. The character Suzanne changes shirts onstage and she needs to reveal her sexy bra to the audience. I bought a lacy black bra/corset. (I hope it fits! I don’t have the girls’ bra sizes.) Price tag: $2.50

When I went downstairs to pay for my treasures I received quite a shock — Everything was Half-Off!

Let’s review:

Silk Blouse – $5 $2.50

Skirt and Top Combo – $18 $9

Dress – $40 $20

Corset – $2.50 $1.25

(No sales tax on clothes in NJ)

Total = $70 $35!

And how’s this for luck — today was the last day of their sale. I’m still in shock!

After I paid for the costumes and the sweet cashier gave me a handwritten receipt, I tried my luck at a local Goodwill. Nothing. I was about to call it a day when I decided to check out the Burlington Coat Factory on the way home. Jackpot! When I walked in I saw a giant display of Easter hats, which happen to look very similar to the hats worn in the early 1900s.

Picture 7

I bought three hats and went home to gaze at my treasures. With some feathers, ribbons and fake flowers, the hats will be perfect. I can’t wait until my next thrifting adventure!

What do you think of my loot? I’m afraid the photos just don’t do them justice.

Costumes – Picasso at the Lapin Agile

As you may know, I’m acting in a student written play — my first acting “gig” in over a year, but what you may not know is that I’m also doing costume design for another play! I’m the head costume designer for Picasso at the Lapin Agile and I couldn’t be more excited! Picasso was written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and tells the story of Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, and a time traveling rock star *cough* Elvis *cough* who all meet in the same bar one evening. It’s odd, funny, and wordy — I can’t wait!

I absolutely love costumes and I find being a designer for a show incredibly rewarding. Last night we had our first production staff meeting for Picasso and it got me super pumped. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with theatre, a production staff meeting is where all the designers for each aspect of the show – props, costumes, set, sound, lights, etc. – meet with the directors and producers to discuss the “vision of the show” and begin the planning process). Since we are in the very early stages of the show, we were discussing the script and throwing around preliminary ideas. The play takes place in a fictitious French bar in 1904, so I’m getting to costume my first true period piece! Clothing from the early 20th century isn’t easy to find at your local consignment shop – women wore S-bend corsets and long gowns and the men wore tailored suits. It’s all very elegant. The director and I tossed around the idea of playing with color and perhaps having the costumes change from blue to red to represent Picasso’s transition out of his “blue period”. I’m interested in sticking with traditional 1900’s silhouettes, but perhaps playing with different textures and patterns that wouldn’t be found during that time. We’ll see! Thankfully, I’m not doing this alone – I have three costume assistants (who all know how to sew – I basically won the assistant jackpot!) and I will train them and take them under my wing. I pretty much learned how to costume shows on my own through trial and error, but I will teach them what I’ve learned so once I graduate there will be more experienced costume designers at TCNJ.

Last night I was up really late because I couldn’t stop looking up 20th century clothes and sketching costume ideas, but it was so much fun. I’ll keep you updated on the show!

“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”

“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”

– Oscar Wilde, Poet, Novelist, Dramatist and Critic

A Return to the Stage!

sailorkissIn the past year I’ve directed and designed costumes for various plays, but it’s been over a year since I’ve actually acted in a show. Well readers, I’m happy to announce that the hiatus is over — I’ll be returning to the stage this March!

I just found out that I was cast in a small student-written play! (I cannot describe how excited I was to see my name on the cast list – it’s been so long!) I cannot wait to start rehearsing!

All I know is that the play is a WWII-era love story. I’ll post more details after my first rehearsal.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


London Blog: Harry Potter Costumes

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Click through the slideshow to see some of the beautiful costumes from the eight Harry Potter films.

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London: Day 9

Welcome to Hogwarts!A group of us woke up extra early to catch a bus to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The bus ride was a bit lengthy – over an hour and a half long, but it was so worth it! The tour started with a quick video about the history of the Harry Potter phenomenon. The film concluded with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint standing in front of the front door to Hogwarts inviting us on the tour and then suddenly the screen lifted revealing the actual door! The group was ushered through the door which opened to the Great Hall.

Ghost of Ravenclaw’s dress

Two house tables were set up and the side walls were lined with costumes from the film. My favorite was the Grey Lady’s gown, the ghost of Ravenclaw. The front of the Great Hall had Albus Dumbledore’s costume and on either side were the other professors’ costumes including McGonagall and Snape. After we made our way through the Great Hall I slowly strolled through room after room of sets, costumes and props from the eight films. (Once I get home I will post a slide show of the beautiful costumes – the WiFi connection is too slow here.) The Potions classroom was an incredible set. I learned that each jar, bottle and flask was hand labeled and filled with an assortment of creatures and bones.

Umbridge's Office

Umbridge’s Office

Dumbledore’s office looked exactly like the one in the queue (line) at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios. Some of my favorite things were Luna Lovegood’s radish earrings, Ron’s Yule Ball costume, Bellatrix Lestrange’s wig and costume, each of the seven horcruxes and Umbridge’s pink costumes and office – kitten porcelain and all.

Butterbeer and cheese sandwich

Butterbeer and cheese sandwich

Next we walked through the outdoor exhibit which had the Knight Bus, the Weasley’s flying car, Sirius’s motorcycle, the Hogwarts Bridge, and Number 4 Privite Drive. I also got to have a glass of delicious Butterbeer. Butterbeer is only sold at two places in the world (the second place is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida), and now I’ve had it at both locations. For anyone who hasn’t had a chance to try Butterbeer, it’s a bit like an extra foamy cream soda. It is incredibly rich and sweet. One cup is more than enough, even for someone with my sweet tooth.



The next area was indoors and was home to the Harry Potter Creatures Shop. I saw Buckbeak the hippogriff, numerous Goblin masks, Dobby, and an audio animatronic Hagrid. Many of the creatures, such as the mermaids and the thestrals, were both terrifying and beautiful. It’s amazing to think that artists designed each creature and someone had to make them by hand!

Flourish & Blotts

Flourish & Blotts

The next room was Diagon Alley! This is exactly like an indoor version of this iconic street at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The street was complete with everything from Olivanders’ Wand Shop to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I loved walking down the street and peering into the shop windows. The attention to detail was simply extraordinary.

Next door were wall-to-wall blueprints of the Hogwarts Castle and just through the next room was a giant scale model of Hogwarts. At the very end of the tour (before the gift shop of course) was a room filled from floor to ceiling with wand boxes, each with the name of a person who worked on the films.



It was such a nice way to give the many Harry Potter contributors the credit that they deserve. I browsed through the gift shop for a while, but I didn’t end up making a purchase. I was already wearing my Griffendor scarf from Universal Studios and feeling nice and full from the butterbeer so I was content.

After the bus ride back to the hotel, Liz and I quickly went to the Museum of London to see the original Peter Pan costume from the 1911 production. I also got the chance to photograph some beautiful clothes from the 1700s to the 1970s. Even though we rushed to get to the museum before it closed, we ended up having plenty of time to enjoy the clothes.

Peter Pan costume, 1911

Peter Pan costume, 1911

Near the museum was St. Paul’s Cathedral so we walked around simply gazing at the amazing architecture. Unfortunately the cathedral was closed for the night so we couldn’t go inside, but we enjoyed just looking at it from the outside. On our way back we grabbed some dinner at an Indian restaurant near our hotel. It was such a lovely day!

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London Blog: Shakespearean Costume Demonstration

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Click through the slideshow to see the arduous process of getting dressed in the 1500’s.

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London Blog: Day 4

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

It was a glorious Shakespeare filled day and I loved every minute of it! After our usual breakfast at the hotel, our group took the Tube to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for our 10 a.m. tour. The Globe is a tribute to Shakespeare and includes an exhibition area, learning center and playhouse – which is a recreation of the original Globe Theatre that was lost in a fire centuries ago.

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

The playhouse is absolutely incredible, but my pictures simply don’t do it justice. It is a 20 paneled circular structure with seating on three levels. The stage is beautifully adorned with painted columns and angelic sculptures. There is a large space in front of the theatre for standing room only. In Shakespeare’s day the “groundlings” watched the play from the ground for 1 pence while standing on a floor of hazelnut shells. We toured the entire playhouse and even ventured to the top level to sit in the Queen’s box!

In the Queen's box!

In the Queen’s box!

After we finished drooling over the theatre we watched a costume demonstration in the exhibition area. We learned that all the actors at the Globe Theatre wear authentic Shakespearean style costumes from head to toe. Even their undergarments are like those worn in the original Globe Theatre. I was lucky enough to be chosen to model Ophelia’s costume (step-by-step photos of the costume demonstration soon to come!) – making the Globe the highlight of my trip. Putting on the costume was quite a process – it took two employees to get me fully dressed. First, were the undergarments which is a long sleeved white linen dress and a pair of silk stockings that go over the knee that are fastened with two eyelets – red silk ribbons.

Costume rack

Costume rack

Next, the corset. I put my arms through the sleeves and the ladies laced me up in the back using straight-lacing. Even though they didn’t lace me up tight, the garment was incredibly stiff so I was forced to stand up straight. Next they put a farthingale or “bum-roll” around my waist to make me look like I had a larger bottom. Imagine women trying to make their hips and butts look bigger! In Shakespeare’s day, men found women with large hips attractive because that indicated that they could bear children. On the bottom they attached a petticoat by pulling eyelets on the corset through holes in the petticoat. At this point they told me I was standing in my underwear! I put on a pair of lovely shoes made of lamb skin and they were quite comfortable even though they were very big on me. Next they put a skirt over the petticoat which was also fastened with eyelets. Finally, they put me in sleeves (which go on like a jacket), a lace collar and a bonnet. The costume wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I did feel the weight of all the layers on my lower back. I imagine that if I wore the dress for a long period of time I would have a sore back. When I sat down, the dress forced me to sit up perfectly straight with my hands folded in my lap! No wonder ladies in Shakespeare’s time had such good posture. I felt incredibly elegant, and a part of me wishes that people still dressed like that. I would like to imagine that I was a 15th century noblewoman in a past life and got to dress up in lovely gowns all the time.

Notice how it's a male mannequin wearing the dress.

Notice how it’s a male mannequin wearing the dress.

Afterwards we got a chance to walk through the exhibits and I spent most of my time in the costume section. The colors, textures and patterns of the clothes were exquisite and the golds and reds were just to die for. Liz and I got a hot lunch outside beside the river overlooking the Millennium Bridge. I feel like I belong here in London because everything is so beautiful and full of history. I would gladly trade in New Jersey sunburns for London’s overcast weather. I hope to come back to London very soon!

In the afternoon our group went to the Apollo Theatre to see Richard III just as Shakespeare intended it to be seen. The all male cast performed the play “by the book” with hand-made costumes, live music, and a candlelit stage – dripping wax and all! The audience surrounded the stage on three sides and there was even seating onstage! It was so interesting to see actors wearing costumes just like the one I wore earlier in the day. At first it was slightly distracting that men were playing women, but I quickly saw past their gender and learned to appreciate their feminine characterizations.

My favorite actor was Mark Rylance who played the title character and managed to add likability and humor to an often hated character. He was always playing right to the audience and made Shakespearean English understandable to the modern audience. His version of the character had a hunchback, deformed arm, and limp. Despite the challenges of these physical impairments, Rylance radiated energy and vivacity with his every movement. When Richard III becomes King Rylance he wore a beautiful golden cape. During our Globe Theatre tour we learned that the cape is made of real gold and is quite heavy. Armed with this knowledge, I couldn’t stop gazing at the cape the entire time it was onstage! My only complaint of the performance was the director’s choice to cast men in female roles. Obviously, the director was aiming to put on the most authentic performance of Richard III as possible in 2013, but I would like to have seen actresses perform the female roles.

In the evening Liz and I got dinner with our professors at a pub and then turned in for an early night since we are still recovering from jet lag. So long!

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London Blog: Day 2

It looks like I’m going to be playing catch up with my posts. Luckily I’ve been writing everything by hand in my journal so I can just type it out when I get a chance. On the second day, Liz and I enjoyed the lovely continental breakfast in our hotel complete with croissants, tea, and British oatmeal (which is delicious!). BreakfastIn the morning we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is filled with international treasures. The museum has a little bit of everything but the best part was visiting the jewelry and theatre exhibits. I saw jewelry that dated back to ancient Egypt (the golden snake arm band reminded me of Aida) and dazzling jeweled tiaras worn by British royalty in the 1700s. The theatre exhibit was incredible! I saw the harness worn in the original Peter Pan production, glittering dresses, and costumes from The Lion King.

Peter Pan harness, 1904

Peter Pan harness, 1904

I could have spent all day admiring the costumes. We hardly scratched the surface of all the treasures within the Victoria and Albert Museum so Liz and I plan to go back and visit the Hollywood Costume exhibit another day.

After the Victoria and Albert Museum we went to King’s Cross Station to visit platform 9 and 3/4! (Harry Potter fans rejoice!) Next we toured the British Library, which holds the second largest collection of books in the world (second only to the Library of Congress). The odd thing about this library is that the books are stored underground, so you can’t exactly browse. There is a museum-like exhibit that contains some famous works displayed behind glass. I was mere inches from the Magna Carta, musical scores handwritten by Mozart and Beethoven, and Jane Austen’s writing desk and tiny glasses. It’s amazing to think that Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice at that very desk!

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn’t it beautiful?

In the evening we saw our first London play, The Wind in the Willows, at the Royal Opera House. Although the play was cute, it was definitely more suited for children and I found myself getting a little bored during the first act. It picked up in the second act and I marveled at the actors’ excellent characterization. In the evening I went to an outdoor restaurant and dined under twinkling lights while listening to live music. It was the perfect end to a perfect day!

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