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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Art Evolved

My husband is a theater teacher and in the summer he does a theater camp for kids and teens. The camp ends with a show; this year it was called "Arts Evolved", and would be best described as an arts variety show. I volunteered my time to make all the costumes and had a blast doing it. I also helped backstage getting the kids dressed and doing hair and makeup.
The show begins with a tour guide leading a group through art the kids created during camp, and then to live "paintings" and sculptures- the kids were the artwork. Then the statues came to life and danced, it was beautiful.
[Tour guide unveiling one of the three live paintings, the titles having been pulled randomly from a basket by audience members, from left to right, Flock of Birds, A Train, and Monkeys at the Zoo]
Then there was music by a very talented young musician named Sairah, followed by the main part of the show, a piece my husband wrote called "Rescuing the Muses". The story is about a little girl's dream that a two-headed king has kidnapped the world's three muses, holding them captive until they give him inspiration. The set goes through many changes, beginning in the main character Emily's bedroom, then into her dream, on a boat, with the walls of her room becoming the boat, and also the kings' boat and court room. There are amazing puppets for the two-headed king and also a giant bird puppet. Here are some photos I took from backstage.

[foreground, one of the muses, background, Emily and the captain]

[foreground, the kids who did the voices for the two headed king, background is the king puppet...body is made up of two children under fabric who each have one arm and one leg sticking out. Heads were operated from behind the throne by my husband. The whole throne wheels onto stage.]

[This is a backstage view of my husband Chris operating the puppet's mouth's, and in green, the MC]

[Mrs.Bird, a giant puppet operated by two people with flapping wings and moving mouth, and on the left is the Oracle in white]

[the three muses waiting in the wings for their cue to enter]

The muses' costumes were simply fabric and scarves wrapped and tied, with a tied belt on the waist and some colorful jewelry, and those great little hair-headbands I found at the dollar store.

[Local newspaper coverage of the show, Bottom R shows Emily and the captain in costume]
The captain's outfit was a red button up shirt I found at the thrift shop with some extra buttons sewn on and I also added a brown felt mandarin collar, for a bit of a Sargent Pepper's look. I also made the captain a brown and black felt pirate's hat, which is basically a soft hat with a circular rim which is then rolled up in three places and stitched to the crown. I made another pirate's hat for one of the boat's crew, out of colorful wool scraps. The First Mate's costume was a blue t-shirt which I appliqued with a yellow anchor and some naval "awards" on one side.

[ABOVE: "Emily"]
Emily's dress.... Chris told me he wanted "Alice in Wonderland/Dorothy of Oz dress, but more psychedelic" (it is a dream after all). I started by finding a jumper pattern to guide me on the shape of the top of the dress. I knew the skirt would be a simple gathered skirt and i wouldn't need a pattern for that. I used this great Matchbox jumper pattern from..the 60's? Anyway it's really cute. I then assembled some pieces of silk and costume fabrics into patchwork and cut out the pieces for the top of the dress. But, what I had forgotten to do was to reshape the waist of the pattern to be more fitted- after all the original pattern is an A-line. So instead I put in a bunch of tiny darts, I don't know how many. But the waist finally got to the right size. I finished the facings and straps but left the back open for fitting the costume.
[Emily's dress, made completely from scraps of costume fabric and silk]
I put together two long pieces of patchwork for the skirt and basted them together, then put in gathering stitches. The skirt started out being almost 3 yards long and I gathered it to 25 inches! I almost thought I had gone too far- I gathered it as tightly as I could and it actually could have gone to a 23" waist, but there was not much room for error! Came out just perfect though. When the little girl tried it on and it fit perfectly I could not have been happier. Then I took it home and finished the hems, put on buttons, and added the black satin ribbon belt. I originally intended for it to be worn over a shirt but the actress wore it over a skin-color leotard and it covered fine and was very cute. She loved it so much she wanted to keep it. Lots of grown women have also told me they want an "Emily dress". It was the hit costume of the show.