Saturday, September 20, 2008


A lot of people consider theater to be an art. Maybe it is. I don't take an intellectual approach to it. For me, it's storytelling. The director, the crew and the actors combine their talents to tell the story written by the playwright. Whether the playwright is William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, or Neil Simon, the process is still the same.

I've been privileged to play with the Sam Bass Community Theatre for twenty-five years. I've taken my turn at almost every crew position, but eventually, costuming emerged as my special talent. I have lost track of the number of plays I have costumed. Admittedly, I have no college education in theater; what I do have is a lot of years of on-the-job training.

I like to think I'm pretty good at what I do. I can help the director tell his or her version of The Story.

The director of "Romeo and Juliet" told me that the play was to be done in an urban setting, and in modern dress. She further told me that the Capulets would be in white, and the Montagues in black. It was I who came up with the idea to dress all survivors in black and white for the Epilogue. Of course, "black and white" became "light and dark," in the process of actually dressing the individual characters.

It was my mistake to refer to the Epilogue as the Funeral.

I did not realize that I had made this error until I sat in the audience on Tuesday, just to see how everything looked. Much to my surprise, Lord and Lady Capulet were dressed in black and white for Juliet's funeral. I spoke to both of them afterward, apologizing for my mistake. When I spoke with Lord Capulet, he objected to attending his daughter's funeral dressed in white. He carefully explained to me that people wear black to funerals. Could he possibly have thought that I don't know that? I countered with the surety that, as black was the colour of Montague, Capulet would not wear it for any reason. I further mentioned that the reason for everyone to wear black and white for the epilogue is to draw attention to the ending of the enmity between the two houses. I could tell that he was not convinced, but I never thought he would refuse to comply.

...And that's what happened, folks.

The show opened tonight, and I saw him make his entrance in Juliet's funeral scene, wearing his black shirt and black and white tie.

I have to let it go. It always chaps my hide to have to compromise with actors about their costumes. After all, the actor is not watching the scene in which he is performing. He is not watching the whole play. All he has to consider is his own character. The look of the entire show is my responsibility.

This actor may have some idea that he looks foolish in the scene, being the only one wearing anything black, as he tried to tell the director that Lady Capulet should also be in black and white. He has no care that he has totally ruined the effect of the black and white costumes in the Epilogue.

I will let it go, because I must. But it rankles. And it hurts.

Edited to add that, on Thursday night, I talked Capulet (or he talked himself after I spoke with him) into dressing the way he was supposed to. Hallelulia!


  1. Understudy!

    Is this the same narcissistic clown that wanted special shoes?

  2. Got it in one!

    Unfortunately, the only person who as an understudy is Juliet, because she has health issues.

    Once again, Ronni sucks it up for the sake of peace.

    When I don't, I wind up regretting it.

  3. Stick a "kick me" notice on his back.

  4. As I became familiar with all that theatre entails, I realized that a director is like an artist painting a picture: each part of the play, from the costumes to the lighting and each person involved with the production was a different tool that the director used to paint that picture. Not just a color, but a tool, like the brush or a palette knife or the canvas or the frame that makes up the whole vision of the director. And just like me when I paint, sometimes I know just what I want my picture to look like and just what tool I need to make it match that vision in my head, and other times I have to struggle with it until finally it is just right.

    Lynn picked you to be her costumer designer because you were the "tool" she trusted could make her vision come alive to the audience. I think you did a great job, and I told my husband after the performance that you told me you were unhappy because the actor wouldn't wear the costume you chose for him to wear at the funeral. He said he thought it should be your call since you are the costumer. I also agree with him.

    I thought you were wonderful as Lady Montague, AND as the costume designer (they are really terrific, and I can tell you put a lot of thought into's not obvious stuff, it's subtle, poetic, like Shakespeare's work), and I am glad you came back to Sam Bass, even though it has glad and sad memories for you.

  5. Thank you for those kind words!

    Lord, knows, I do my best, as does Lynn, to tell the Writer's story, or paint his picture, if you will.

    It is difficult to swallow, when actors won't trust in Lynn's vision, or my interpretation of it.