Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yet Another Costume Rant

I have never really believed actors to be cattle, in spite of Alfred Hitchcock. I mean, I am one, myself. I usually manage to get my costumes back to the shop when they are supposed to be there. Usually, I manage not to lose my invoice.

Invoices. Your invoice has a lot of information. It lists all the pieces you have, down to headbands and hankies. You can use this to help you find all of the pieces when the show is over. You can check off the items as you wash them, bag them, or pick them up from the cleaners. It also has our phone number, email address, hours of operation (including the fact that we close for lunch) and address. If you can manage to hang onto this important piece of paper, it will help you get all your costumes back to us on time.

On time. That's another thing. There is a date on your invoice. As a matter of fact, there are two: the date you picked them up, and the date by which they are supposed to be returned. That second date is usually a week after your show closes, allowing time for laundering or dry cleaning. The date has been chosen for a reason, and we have set aside that date for everyone in your show to return their costumes. We have scheduled you on that date. After that date, guess what? We will be working on a different show...or two...or four. When you are late returning your costumes, you interrupt this work, and the cumulative effect is that we sometimes have to work extra hours to finish the next show on time. Your costumes were ready when you came to pick them up on the scheduled day, weren't they? Don't you think the actors in the next show we are doing deserve the same?

When you keep the costumes past their due date, you are depriving us of revenue. We don't just hang them up and keep them for the next time we do your specific show. We use them for other shows and for individuals. If they are not in the shop when we need them, we are unable to use them. For a show, we might have to spend time building another of whatever you have kept, or buy another, if it's a pair of boots or other item that we cannot build. For an individual...we, and they, are SOL. We can kiss $85 goodbye, and whatever that person might have rented the next time they came...because they won't come back. Would you return to a rental place that didn't have what you needed in stock?

We have heard all the reasons for being late. You had to go to Michigan because your grandmother died. Your husband is out of town. Your child had head lice. Your back gave out and you've been in the hospital. Your cat threw up on them just as you brought them in from the cleaners. They were in the car that got repossessed. Or, my personal favourite: you live so far away that you just haven't had time to bring them all this way. Whenever I hear that one, I always want to say, "Well, you found the time to drive All That Way to pick them up, didn't you? To show up for rehearsals and performances, didn't you? Then pull up your big boy drawers (dammit!) and return your costumes!"

It does no good to be thinking, "Oh, well...they are so late now that I will just wait until I pick up for the next show, and kill two birds with one stone." Nope. What you are doing is throwing a monkey wrench into the well-oiled picking-up machine. The Palace, especially, schedules pickups, usually five per half hour...five people at 10:30, another five at 11:00, etc. That's six minutes per person for Ramona to go over every piece with, and do paperwork. If we have to take the time to check yours in from the last show in the middle of all that, it puts us behind, causing others to have to wait. Very inconsiderate, in my opinion.

Much as we love all of you, you do need to realize that we have other shows. Odd as that may seem to you, who have been consumed by your own for months, we do have other shows, other customers and other actors to dress according to the scripts and directorial preferences.

And, speaking of preferences, who washes and dries a pair of tux pants? Or a taffeta evening gown? Use some sense, people! We tell you it's OK to wash things that can be washed, such as shirts. We tell you it's OK to wash them in cold water, after spraying the greasy, makeup-covered collars with 409, and to drip dry them. We say, over and over again, "Do not put any of our costumes into the dryer. Dryers are evil." I might be able to restore the taffeta gown, but the wool tux pants are a write-off.

Oh...and "dry cleaning" does not mean throwing your stuff into the dryer with one of those home dry-cleaning sheets. Those do not do anything to clean your clothes, insofar as the actual removal of dirt is concerned. We will even suggest a cheap dry cleaner.

So, can we please be grownups about this?

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