Owner Erik Johnsen in the racks at The Costumer
Owner Erik Johnsen in the racks at The Costumer

Dressed for Success

Lisa Mulcahy

The Costumer Is Thriving At 100 Years Young

The Costumer, a full-service costume sales and rental company with locations in both Schenectady and Albany, NY, as well as a thriving online business, is celebrating their 100th year in business. Quite an achievement, but an accomplishment that’s no surprise to their loyal repeat clients. 

Originally founded by Anna White, The Costumer is today owned and stewarded by Erik Johnsen and his family. They maintain the business’s commitment to its theatrical customers, especially the academic theater market, with a personalized approach. The staff are experts at listening to the needs of both scholastic clientele and commercial/community theater directors and designers, so that every production’s needs can be met with precision. Johnsen believes the combination of the people he serves as customers and the people he works with as colleagues are the real reasons for The Costumer’s legendary longevity.

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Ben Nye Makeup Hits Milestone 50 Years

Michael Eddy

Started in 1967, The Ben Nye Makeup company was founded by the renowned makeup artist Ben Nye, Sr. who had worked in Hollywood for over 30 years on over 500 feature films. Nye was well-known for his iconic style of realism and significant achievements in makeup for film; including creating makeup for Asian, Latino, and African American actors. After starting out as an apprentice in the mid-1930s, he worked on Gone With the Wind in 1938 and mixed colors for actress Butterfly McQueen. Around 1957, 20-years after that film, there was still only basic, generic foundations available, so he started to make his own makeup for people of color, filling a niche that he felt was not being served for these actors.

Today Ben Nye is still family-owned, now being run by his youngest son Dana Nye, who started working with his father in 1970. Ben Nye Makeup is today known the world over for exceptional quality and is a resource for professional makeup artists of stage and screen. Working closely with their clients, Ben Nye has responded to artists’ needs and changing styles of the time by developing an ever-expanding line of makeup products that address them all, including the need for high definition makeup about a decade ago. 

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Troian Bellisario & Patrick J. Adams wear costumes designed by Denitsa Bliznakova for The Last Match
Troian Bellisario & Patrick J. Adams wear costumes designed by Denitsa Bliznakova for The Last Match

Curating the Closet of the Character

Joe Kucharski

Designing a contemporary costume plot
Period and fantasy productions transport you to a world far removed from your own, and with that the costume designer is challenged to create an entire world that is completely foreign to an audience, or recreate one that a portion of the audience might recall quite vividly. The challenge for the costume designer of a contemporary dressed production is that the audience is much more familiar with the world of the story. Within our global society, even with a story that takes place half way around the world, there are higher expectations of the clothing and how it serves to express character. Tony Award-winning costume designer (Eclipsed), Clint Ramos describes it this way, “I think the most successful contemporary productions I’ve seen, and been involved in, are where the clothes are so perfect they actually are invisible in the right way. Contemporary dress productions require utmost truth in costuming. The audience can spot a lie in a second because it is their world—so really, the choices need to be ultra-specific and precise.” 

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Cherelle Guyton
Cherelle Guyton

Cherelle Guyton: Artistry of Hair & Wig Design - An Illuminations Blog

Porsche McGovern

Cherelle Guyton currently works as the Wig and Hair Supervisor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  I met her after a panel discussion at the Theatre Communications Group conference in Portland, OR this year. Cherelle Guyton is an artist, entrepreneur, educator, designer and speaker.  She is the CEO and Designer of C Stylez U, LLC, a bi-coastal wig and makeup design business.  C Stylez U offers a variety of wig and makeup design services for theatre, tv/film, photography, marketing videos, commercials and also serves individual clients. She has designed over thirty-three productions to date, including Les Miserables, voted one of the 2015 "Best of Ashland" plays.
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Derek DelGaudio onstage
Derek DelGaudio onstage

Jules Fisher on Working with Derek DelGaudio

Michael Eddy

Over his long and illustrious career, lighting designer and theater consultant Jules Fisher has lit many magicians, including all of Ricky Jay’s shows. A keen student of the art of magic himself, with a passion for the subject since his youth, Fisher enjoys working in and around magicians, especially ones who push boundaries. “Since I was eight-years old, I was interested in magic,” he says. “I went to see magic shows all the time. I saw Blackstone Sr. and then years later, I met his son Blackstone Jr. I even consulted to the lighting designer for Blackstone Jr.’s Broadway appearance. In fact, one of my first jobs in Las Vegas was at MGM lighting an unknown 8-minute act, Siegfried and Roy. Through one magician to the next, I got to know an awful lot of them.” It is that affinity to magic coupled with his expertise in theatrical production that made Fisher a natural fit to work with Derek DelGaudio. 

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Munchkin hats for NBC’s The Wiz Live!
Munchkin hats for NBC’s The Wiz Live!

What Fresh Hell is This?

Elizabeth Flauto

Surviving a Home-Based Costume Craft Studio

If we didn’t love to be constantly challenged to create, invent, develop, and engineer new projects, techniques, and relationships, we would not do theater at all. This eternal exploration is at the heart of our business, art, and craft. Theater artists, as a tribe, are curious, clever, and fearless, as we tell new stories, invent new characters and creatures, and delve into worlds foreign to our own. None of us would trade this for anything. Which is not to say that it does not sometimes get us down.

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Graffiti in production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park
Graffiti in production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park

But Will It Wash Off...

Jay Duckworth

Creating stage graffiti, that’s easy to clean up night after night

“That’s not quite it. Can you keep going?” asked Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater. “Of course,” I replied. This is the stuff I love about doing props and I haven’t been able to prop a show for this man I admire for seven years, so I was not going to let him down. We were discussing a scene in the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, where Cassius throws a big blue paintball onto a Julius Caesar political poster. When I say big paintball, I mean it. The poster was 4’x4’; Oskar wanted it fully covered.

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For every "hello," stage managers soon find themselves saying "goodbye"
For every "hello," stage managers soon find themselves saying "goodbye"

How to Say Goodbye to a Show - Stage Manager Blog

David J. McGraw
One of the perks of a life in theatre is the near-constant stream of collaborators.  But for every “hello” there is soon a “goodbye.”

This is especially true for me this past week as I saw the close of my summer show and I gave my notice to the University of Iowa, where I have taught for the past 14 years.  Sometimes the goodbyes are right on schedule as you knew the show closing date when you took on the contract; other times you are forced to decide when it is time to move on.

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Friends with a Needle and Thread can Save a Marriage

Michael Eddy

Welcome to the August issue of Stage Directions magazine. We hope that your summer is going well. This month we take a look at costuming—there is a story on the thoughtful design involved in dressing actors for a contemporary theatre piece to one on working with thermoplastics for costume crafts like masks, hats, and accessories [Props and Scenic Artisans may find some useful ideas here as well.] We also look at one artisan’s freelance career in costume crafts.

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Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton (standing) with soprano Kristine Opolais in Rusalka at The Metropolitan Opera.  Costume design by Mara Blumenfeld.
Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton (standing) with soprano Kristine Opolais in Rusalka at The Metropolitan Opera. Costume design by Mara Blumenfeld.

Tips on Thermoplastics from Costume Craftsperson Elizabeth Flauto

Elizabeth Flauto

Today thermoplastics are more available than ever before and unlike in the past (think of Celastic and huge vacuform machines), these materials are non (or less) toxic. They are easily used without huge investments in equipment, space, or supplies. Here are four different thermoplastics useful in hand-sculpting, and some tricks and tips for their use. This list is far from extensive but can serve as in introduction to using thermoplastics as a sculptural medium.

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