Monday, September 27, 2010

The Joy of Sewing... and sewing... and sewing...

I rarely costume shows anymore, but I took the opportunity to design and build the women’s costumes for theatre KAPOW's recent production of Hedda Gabler. I did it in part because I love the show, and in part because I love the period. If you are going to build a show only once every few years, why build an easy one, right?

I planned ahead as best I could - sketching designs, finding patterns, shopping for material in June. After I returned from my six weeks in New York at the Atlantic Acting School’s summer intensive, I got down to building the show. Here are some reflections on the five weeks I spent chained to my machine (that’s how it felt).

It is so nice to be able to see and touch the product of time spent on something. This is true not only for the finished product of the whole costume piece, but for all the steps along the way as well. Even 15 minutes pent in front of the machine can have a tangible result. I have always known that I am a task and goal-oriented person, and I was reminded of that often during this process as I compared time spent sewing with time spent doing other things. But while those other things may not have the same tangible result, they do serve a purpose – if nothing else, to provide that contrast and make us appreciate the productive times.

Things always take longer than you think they will. Always. Sometimes a LOT longer. It is hard to plan accordingly. But if something if worth doing, it is worth doing right. And there is no substitution for attention to detail. And trimmings. And accessories. But they all take time.

Sometimes, you have to abandon the pattern or the directions and follow your gut. I’ve frequently fallen to “improvisational scenery” in my times as a designer and builder for companies with larger shoestrings than budgets. But I am much more comfortable there than in the “improvisational dressmaking” stream I found myself fording during this process. It was enormously challenging, but I found that I could apply three important things I spent the summer learning to engage with regard to acting: bravery, will, and common sense.

Again, I am struck by how many areas of my life my training this summer has affected, for the positive.

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