Well, every fabulous experience must have a down side I suppose.
The fly in the ointment here has been my costumer. I’d never worked with this woman before, but she had solid credentials in the fashion industry and had worked for the Alley Theatre off and on over the years. We started our tech/design meetings for this show over two months ago. I brought ‘inspiration’ pictures to the first meeting, which she dutifully photographed on her phone. We talked color palette and character. After that meeting she brought some fabric swatches to the next meeting and then did not show for the next couple of meetings. We were told she had difficulty with Webex and could not even phone in. Having received no sketches, I called her and set up a meet. I drove to Sugar Land for her convenience. Again the fabric swatches. She had no sketches or any indication of where she was doing with the costumes. Her phone had died and she lost the pictures she’d taken previously. I made sketches of what I thought they should look like on napkins from the restaurant and promised to forward the original pictures to her new phone. She agreed to order the fabrics the next day and build the pajamas for Act II before our publicity photo shoot in two weeks.
At the publicity shoot, she showed up 45 minutes late because of traffic. She had some clothes she’d pulled from storage, but the promised pajamas she had not been able to finish because a tree had fallen on her studio and she couldn’t get into it until a friend came over with his chain saw to clear the debris. This was two weeks before rehearsals began.
At first read through, which is open to our subscribers, we usually ask the designers to be available to talk a little about what the designs will be. My scenic designer was there with sketches. The costumer came with the same fabric swatches I’d seen at least twice before and nothing more. I reported my concerns to the company manager.
One week into rehearsal we had a ‘stumble through’ of the entire play for the designers. she told my stage manager she wasn’t aware she had to come to the designer preview. When she showed up late, she slept through the first two acts then left before Act III.
She failed to meet my leading lady and myself for a wig fitting, promising by text to see us later that day at rehearsal. She never showed though actor fittings were scheduled. After dozens of texts from my stage manager, she responded late that night to say her ‘dog is dying’.
Two weeks into rehearsal and at the beginning of techs, she did fittings of ‘pulled’ costumes on one actress, then she cancelled other fittings, not once but twice.
Artistic Director, Becky Udden returned from vacation to join our rehearsals as the maid Louise, just before tech rehearsals began. She addressed my concerns and took over direct communications with the costumer.
The evening of first dress rehearsal, she was an hour late arriving with costumes she had borrowed from the Alley Theatre storage that day. After the run through in ill fitting and often inappropriate clothing, I began tech notes. Her response to my question about one of the costumes in Act I was “Oh, that’s just a temporary costume. The fabric is being dyed for that dress.” I was stunned. The fabric, which she supposedly ordered over a month ago, was just now being dyed in order to be cut and sewn together—four days before our first preview.
Becky switched into high gear. She dragged the woman back to our costume storage, where they pulled more appropriate clothing for the men and dresses from our last production of Private Lives eleven years ago. Fortunately, my Amanda and the previous actress are very close in stature and size. Ultimately, even Becky lost patience with the woman and on Saturday before our first preview, the costumer was fired and Becky essentially took over.
We concluded dress rehearsals with clothes for everyone, mostly pulled or borrowed but looking fabulous and very nearly the right period. My costumer had missed every single deadline. The fabric she supposedly ordered and had Main Street pay for may or may not have existed, certainly she had nothing to show for the money she’d spent and the time she’d wasted. But fortunately, Becky pulled a rabbit out of the hat, as she has had to do on numerous occasions over the last forty odd years. So when you see the show and the wacky maid comes on briefly in the last act, give her a little extra applause.