Dec 2, 2008
Costumes tell the story
by Emily DeFosse
The Living Christmas Tree at Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) is an intricate production involving a large amount of behind-the-scenes work, especially for the creation of costumes.
Kathy Jordan has been the head costumer for The Living Christmas Tree for 10 years. She began as the assistant, altering rented costumes but due to her previous costuming experience and love for the theater, she began directing costuming for the production the following year.
Although, The Living Christmas Tree does not hit the stage until December, preparations begin months in advance. Preparations include gathering fabric and supplies so the costumes may be constructed. After the costumes are made they are organized for the performances.
“Costume preparation begins with costume design as soon as the concept for the play has been developed.” Jordan said. “By the beginning of June, we had much of our costume design conceptualized and began looking for materials and ideas.”
According to Jordan, the costuming department has about 25 volunteers who help with the various aspects of costuming. Some assist with design, and others with construction or organization.
“We have had an amazing turn out of volunteers who are a tremendous help,” said Jordan’s assistant Sarah Gifford, who has been working with The Living Christmas Tree for three years.
This year’s costumes are very different from previous years. The storyline focuses on a deliveryman who travels to various places in the world, Jordan said.
“Our costumes range from some spectacular animal costumes to beautiful Asian costumes,” Jordan said. “Creating characters and moods coupled with making costumes visually appealing and able to work with performances movement can be very challenging.”
During performances of The Living Christmas Tree those working with the costume department will be backstage helping the actors and dancers with their costumes. Jordan compares her job backstage to that of a pit crew — fast paced and never boring.
“You have your occasional rips, tears and lost pieces that must be dealt with,” Jordan said. “We have hundreds and hundreds of costumes and costume pieces. We try to stay as organized as possible, but it is live theater and anything can happen.”
“Backstage is a whirlwind of costumes flying,” Gifford said. “During each performance we are very busy getting performers in and out of costumes, sometimes in as little as under two minutes.”
In the past, costumes from previous years have been reused. However, this year there is an entirely new script, and all the costumes have been specifically made for the show.
Many of the costumes presenting large challenges, Jordan said that the animal costumes were the largest challenge because she has never made anything like them before. The costumes for the deliveryman as he travels from country to country also presented challenges but overall he was a fun character to create costumes for.
Jordan and Gifford both agree that the costumes for the Asian number are some of the most exciting and colorful, however, all of this year’s Living Christmas Tree costumes are uniquely exciting and colorful help to make the show come to life.
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