Through a friend I met one of the founders of the Playhouse Community Theatre in Houston. It is a charity which offers after-school bi-lingual drama, dance and visual arts classes to children in the local area. Unlike some bi-lingual initiatives I have encountered, bi-lingual here actually means both English and Spanish are spoken and used rather than be solely Spanish-speaking. The theatre puts on two performances by the children each year. One is around Christmas time and an intensive summer-camp culminates in a performance towards the end of July.
When I first heard about the theatre I offered my time to the costuming department in the hope of getting sewing experience and adding work to my portfolio. That offer was taken up to assist with costumes for the July 2013 performance. Over the last couple of weeks I have been ’employed’ in a volunteer capacity to make costumes for four doll parts and the Tragedy and Comedy parts wearing harlequin-style suits. Having real deadlines and real clients makes quite a difference and I have been up at seven in the morning to sew until nine at night with short breaks for food and drink.
The director (who is a very talented fashion designer) sketched his ideas for the costumes on which I based the final costumes. I discussed colours and layouts with the actors as well as taking into account the time and materials available. I took measurements of the actresses and actors, noted them on the sketches and then made patterns from which I made the costumes with the materials made available by the theatre. After five day’s work this is what the costumes looked like at the dress rehearsal:
A couple of the doll dresses needed to be shortened, which I completed the morning before the performance.
The harlequin suits for Tragedy and Comedy were adjusted before the dress rehearsal and did not need significant alterations afterwards.
On the evening of the actual performance, I was doing wardrobe duties back stage. With a children’s performance there is so much chaos going on back stage, that it was just impossible to get the actors and actresses to pose for me in their final costumes, however I did take a couple of candid pictures of the goings on.
This was my initial experience of working costume and wardrobe and I very much enjoyed it. I hope to do more work with the Playhouse Community Theatre. As it is a charity, all its activities rely on adequate funding being available. If you would like to support their work financially, they take donations by credit card on their website.