Altering Imagination: the Life of a Costume Apprentice

“There are sneaky things that happen in the costume shop,” says Katie Goldman, one of the two Endstation apprentices spending the summer learning the crafty side of dressing three full-scale productions.

Along with Hope Maddox, Goldman works in the basement of Sweet Briar College’s Babcock Theatre, where they help the Endstation costume designer, Deepsikha Chatterjee, to alter garments, pull wardrobe, and assist with clothing the 30 different characters of the Endstation season.

When they’re not raiding the racks of a nearby Goodwill, Goldman and Maddox are thinking of ways to be resourceful with the materials they’re given. For instance, Goldman suggested altering a pair of women’s shorts for the boyish character of Wally Webb in Our Town.

“It’s a lot of creative problem solving,” says Goldman, who just graduated from Swarthmore College in Philadelphia. Maddox is currently attending Longwood University, where she is earning a BA degree in theatre and history.  

Maddox is also learning how to improvise. When she was forced to learn how to pattern an 18th-century-style cravat for the production of Two Gentlemen of Virginia, luckily she had the assistance of some YouTube videos, which helped speed up the construction process from two full days to an afternoon.

Hope & Katie, Photo by KCR

Goldman and Maddox are both natives of the Amherst County area, and so they elaborated more on how Endstation has impacted their surroundings from the time they were in high school.

REAGAN: How has Endstation changed this place you call home?

GOLDMAN: I think without Endstation, there is a void in the arts scene because there are not many other theatres doing shows over the summer.

MADDOX: The company has gotten bigger since I was in high school, and it’s begun to reach out to Lynchburg, which is great for the arts in general.

REAGAN: How did you become interested in costumes?

MADDOX: I’ve always been doodling little dresses in notebooks as long as I can remember. I’m a girl so I like pretty things, and costumes can be so beautiful.

GOLDMAN: My mom taught me to sew as a kid, so it was kind of inevitable that I’d be doing something with costumes. I remember my parents got me and my siblings a giant chest with dress-up clothes for Christmas one year, and we’d spend hours just playing.

REAGAN: What was your favorite thing to dress-up as?

GOLDMAN: I was a princess for Halloween about 7 times… maybe more.

MADDOX: I have an Anne Boleyn costume that I wear all the time. I saw a production of Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton at The Globe Theatre, and it changed my life! I just love Tudor costumes, and I think I was Anne Boleyn in a past life.

REAGAN: Do you ever make your own clothing?

Katie, photo by KCR

GOLDMAN: I typically just alter things so that they can fit me. I hope I’ll be able to learn more about doing alterations over the summer.

MADDOX: I’ve made a Kate Middleton-style coat, and I’m waiting for Easter to come around so that I can wear it!

 

REAGAN: What’s been your favorite show to work on?

MADDOX: I have things that I love about every show that I have ever worked on and usually the shows that are my favorite ones are the ones that involve a lot of creative projects and thinking outside the box. I really enjoy shows that have a lot of color and energy. I have enjoyed all of the shows that I have worked wardrobe on like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, For the Love of Three Oranges, and I have truly enjoyed working on Two Gentlemen of Virginia.

GOLDMAN: So far, I’d have to say that the show I’ve most enjoyed working on was my acting thesis this past spring. Three friends and I devised a production of The Three Musketeers and it was a very physically demanding clown piece, which was a ton of fun to create and perform.

REAGAN: What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to make for a show?

GOLDMAN: I had to make a pair of hair-horns for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The director wanted them for the character of Puck, and so I had to make them out of Styrofoam and fake hair.

MADDOX: I once tie-dyed a clown costume. I felt like a mad scientist because the costume’s material was really heavy, and took a lot of mixing and coloring. I think the way color works is really fun, so one of my hobbies is just to tie-dye things.

REAGAN: Have you ever experienced any wardrobe malfunctions while working on a show?

MADDOX: Everybody likes to throw up and rip their pants when I’m a wardrobe supervisor! I once had to have a crew member follow around an actress with a bucket because she would always get sick before and after the show.

GOLDMAN: I’ve had a similar experience…I was actually performing in a show. Another actress had completely ripped the crotch of her pants. We were all scrambling backstage to fix the problem. We all had these safety pins on the tags of our costumes, so we were pinning the pants back together so that they would hold through till intermission.

Hope, photo by KCR

REAGAN: What would be your dream show to work on as a designer?

MADDOX: I would really like to do Midsummer Night’s Dream because you could do crazy fairy stuff, and there’s so much you can do with Shakespeare. If I could, I would probably do it in the Italian Renaissance era because of its color palette… the show is a very earthy, summer play, so I think that period would work well.

GOLDMAN: The play Etta Jenks by Marlane Meyer has characters that all have animal qualities, which I would like to reflect in the costumes. The play is about a girl who tries to make it big in L.A., and then ends up in the porn industry, but climbs the ranks to become a talent scout for the business. I had to read it for a dramaturgy class.  

REAGAN: How is Endstation preparing you for achieving your eventual career goals?

MADDOX: I feel that Endstation is giving me a lot of real life, professional experience with costumes and with creative problem-solving. I think that the lessons I have learned during this apprenticeship will help me to be a better costume technician in the future, which in turn will help me be a better designer.

GOLDMAN: My ultimate career goals are still a bit fuzzy and undefined. I know that I would like to stay in the theatre world for a while longer, but I’m still determining where I would like to live and how I’d like to channel my creativity. Currently, I’m exploring costumes and think I may continue this for a bit. Working with Endstation is giving me a solid technical base in costumes, while exposing me to a professional theatre experience within a friendly, family-style company. I would also like to continue doing theatre that has strong connections and a basis in its community; Endstation is giving me excellent preparation in that arena.

Goldman and Maddox are presently assisting with the costume construction of Endstation’s production of Our Town, which will be staged at the Old City Cemetery starting June 27th.

Kevin C. Reagan is a student of the University of Arizona, where he studies theatre, history, and journalism. While in school, he works as the editor of the arts & life section of his university’s award-winning newspaper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He also works as a content producer for Arizona Public Media. He hopes to pursue a professional career in arts-focused journalism upon graduating with his BFA degree this December. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinReaganUA.

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