Friends with a Needle and Thread can Save a Marriage

by 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.

I admit, I have no experience in the costume side of theater, but I do have mad respect for the incredible pieces I have seen created and the absolute value of good costume design to a production. I learned that with my very first NYC production. Early in the 80s, my first show on getting into town was a modern, contemporary piece [a period piece today, but we won’t dwell on that] at an Off-Broadway theater. They cast as the lead an actor from a very popular 60s TV show and allowed him to buffalo the costume designer into letting him wear his own clothes for the show, because ‘he knew best what the character would wear.’ It drove the costume designer and the director nuts because they never knew what he would wear from night to night, as apparently ‘what the character would wear’ was whatever the actor wore that day. From my vantage point in the booth it made for interesting viewing, but it caused no end of stress for the creative team and stage management. Even as a lighting guy, I knew this was not good costume design and it made me always watch with interest how the costume palette of a show affected the narrative.

I also learned almost 30 years ago that it pays to have friends who are costume artisans, especially when you step on the train of your bride’s wedding dress [I still say she forgot her blocking, though she insists I did] and tear it so the bustle couldn't be done up for the reception. We wisely invited a couple of costume designers as wedding guests and before we were down the aisle they were pulling needles and thread out of their bags. They had Kathy’s dress sewn up and looking perfect in no time. I think my mother-in-law was particularly impressed as it had been her dress originally and their handiwork was meticulous. You never know when that theatrical training is going to come in handy, and you can always count on theater people to quickly offer support and solutions.

Offering solutions and support is in a way the focus of our cover story this month, looking at Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself. His truly unique merging of ideas, art, theater and illusion drew together an amazing array of talents – Glenn Kaino [artistic producer/designer], Neil Patrick Harris [producer], Frank Oz [director], Jules Fisher [theatrical consultant]. DelGaudio, Kaino, Oz and Fisher all spoke with SD about the production and the collaboration.

As always, I love to hear ideas and thoughts so please feel free to contact me.

I always check the callboard,
-Michael S. Eddy
Editor-in-Chief, Stage Directions