Ladies and gentlemen, presenting…my first ever blog entry!!
My name is Mary Ann Hatem and I am both a member of the Les Miserable cast AND doing double duty as Costume Coordinator. If you want to know what that means, I do whatever the Woodland Theatre Costume Designer tells me. That may seem like a simple explanation to you but trust me, I’ve been working with Regina O’Connor for years and she is not afraid to ask you to do any kind of weird thing she can think of. She is the person who taught me how to use soap to make a ‘bald cap’ and how to use styrofoam meat trays to make ‘shrinkydinks’. I think she’d put everyone in a Project Runway alternative materials challenge to shame. She is nothing short of a magician!
Anyway, I’m here to tell you what costuming an epic and iconic musical (i.e. Les Mis) is like. Everyone here thinks that costuming 31 cast members in upwards of four costumes each is hard but I’ll tell you a little secret: I also happen to be the adviser and director for the Medfield High School Theatre Society and a cast of 31 would be a dream sized cast for me! In all seriousness though, I do not want to diminish in any way the amount of blood, sweat and tears put into what is easily the most beautiful costume plot, and probably the most complex one, I have ever had the honor to work on.
First, the blood. Here is a little secret. Thirty one costumes = an infinitesimal amount of pins. They bite. Most of the costumes get blood on them. Regina and I have always been of one mind: this is good luck. Chocolate on a costume is not good luck. If anyone brings chocolate into a costume area it is immediately confiscated. I am not afraid to let Regina know that there has been a chocolate offender spotted. We eat it later just to make sure there is no further chance of it getting on anything.
The sweat. We are so lucky to have a great warehouse to work in. The space includes both of our own sewing machines, a serger, cutting and ironing tables, two sewing mannequins named Tallulah and Little Edie. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We get there when it’s light out and usually leave in the dark! We’ve solved most of the world’s problems right there at that cutting table.
As you can imagine, spending so much time in one space together has led to a lot of laughter and tears. (Tears…get it? Fabric?) One of Regina’s favorite things is when I hum. I hum a lot. I don’t even know I’m doing it. One of her other favorite things is when I say ‘so….’ And then follow it up with a laugh and say ‘ha, ha. Sew.” I know she thinks I’m really hilarious even if she doesn’t say so. The tears mostly come when we get a burn from the super hot iron, or the sewing machines jam, break needles, run out of thread, etc. Or when we sew things together backwards or upside down. Or when cast comes in for fittings and the pants have droopy crotches or the sleeves are too short on a blouse we’ve counted on using. And you thought those things only happened on Project Runway. When all that happens we know it’s dark out and time to go home.
All in all, I’ve been very excited to go to work at the Warehouse and help create all these marvelous garments. We are very luck to have an Artistic Director, Doug Hodge, who has a great appreciation for the importance of beautiful costuming. Every pair of the 2000 (estimate) pants you see on stage have been built from scratch. Every gown has been lovingly pieced together precisely for our cast members. Each costume has been researched and color coordinated with each unique character in mind. There is no end to the amount of detail, thought and love put into every costume. Take a moment when you come to see the show to really see the costumes. We invite you to take a long hard look at them! Whether they are on a ‘Lovely Lady’ or the ‘Master of the House’, every one of them is a work of art in itself.
In closing, I will just leave you with this thought. You know all the times you’ve said to yourself ‘I really wanted to see that show but I didn’t get my tickets in time’? Well… “The time is now, the day is here!!” Don’t wait until this show is sold out because you want to be able to say ‘I saw that show and it was GREAT!’