Friday, February 20, 2015

Mary Poppins Recap

The more I do this the more I love it! I am so excited Teryl Soren and Amy Gold talked me into taking this position three years ago. It is not something I ever thought I'd be doing.  Costume Design?! It is hard work and takes, sometimes, a lot more time than I'd really like to put into it but really there is nothing more satisfying than starting a huge creative project with a very definite deadline, working like a mad-woman to complete it, and then seeing everything I've worked so hard for on display for everyone to enjoy. And when they really do enjoy it it is like gold. I'm addicted!

This semester was the school musical Mary Poppins. I had intended to start planning it last November when I got word it was the show. Due to a missionary off and family visiting from the mainland that really didn't happen. I thought about it a lot. I watched many productions of it. I read the script multiple times but the set on paper planning didn't really begin until I got back from Utah January 15th. Fortunately I had great students and volunteers this semester to pick up my slack and make it all happen.

We did the Broadway Musical version of Mary Poppins so there are a few things that are different. There's no tea party, no penguins or sheep, and there are a few things added. But we also took out a few of the pieces that are usually found in the broadway version.  No real flying through the air or climbing walls (though still a lot of stage magic) and the scene with the dancing toys was removed.  Because the director was already changing so many things I decided to take a little artistic license too. I decided to keep the Jolly Holiday costume from the movie for both Bert and Mary and then have them dressed like the broadway versions for most everything else.

There were a total of 46 actors in the cast. Twenty-eight of them were named characters and the others were ensemble members who played multiple background parts like chimney sweep and kite flyer, or park stroller and customer. There were four elementary children in the cast who played Jane and Michael Banks and Annie and Fannie Corry. There were three adult community members who played Admiral Boom, The Bird Woman and Mr. Northbrook. There were thirteen Kahuku High School students who played various ensemble parts. The rest were BYU--Hawaii students.

For those 46 actors we had 397 costume pieces (hat=1, skirt=1 etc.). Those 397 pieces made 82 costumes. Twenty-three of the actors never changed costumes but of the 23 others who did, they had 71 costume changes among them! Bert had the most costume changes of anyone with 10. One of those was his quick change during Jolly Holiday. He and Mary had 45 seconds to transform from their artist and nanny uniforms into their iconic candy stripe and white poofy get-ups. Their costumes were made especially to accommodate that change.

Speaking of costumes made: Fifty-one costume pieces were especially made for this show. Mary's entire wardrobe, with the exception of her crinoline which we already had in inventory, were created in a week.  That includes her shirt, her skirts, her three jackets and her specialty accessories. Her hat was ordered by mail and arrived on Wednesday! Phew, just in time to get the flower and ribbon on before final dress rehearsal! We also made leotards for our 4 statues, clothes for the children, Bert's patchwork vest, half a dozen black caps for the sweeps and some other less exciting items.

I was really hoping to not have to rent anything for this production. I hate renting costumes because it is expensive and you never really know what you're going to get. I rented a few suits for my first production here at BYU-H and have been able to avoid it in the subsequent shows. For the well dressed bankers in this show I really needed some better suits than we had and they all needed to match. I rented the suits. Of course they were not perfect. I had to do quite a few alterations, some of them very creative, but they still turned out looking better than if we had tried to dress them from our collection. The price was high though: $668!

Here's the breakdown for everything spent on costumes:
$12--supplies for making paper mache sculpted crowns for statues
$538--for fabric and notions from Fabric Mart
$8--for the leotard pattern purchased online through for our statues. I altered the pattern to have footsies, gloves, and to come up to the neck.
$44--for the suit that became Bert's Jolly Holiday costume
$15--for a Bobby Hat
$20--for Mary's Hat
and of course the $668 I already mentioned for suits rented from Tuxedo Wholesaler. That brings the total to $1305. That's a lot of money but considering there were 82 costumes in the production that's just $16 per costume. Or if you want to break it down to costume pieces made/rented (86 items) that's about $15 per item.

The leotard pattern from Jalie was a great pattern. Though it ran a little big it was a comfortable cut and was easy to put together and alter and the pattern took well to the additions we made (footies, gloves, as mentioned before). We also purchased  Simplicity Pattern 1732.  It was for Mary's coats. I did not like this pattern. Several of the pattern pieces were mislabeled and the directions were junk. I'm glad I knew how to do the construction without instructions. The fit was not super great so I adjusted that, put a little better flare into it, changed the sleeve cap a bit and added some more support into that and then I also changed the collar shape. For Mary's blue coat I changed the hem to be a fade from short to long. I made the pattern for Mary's skirts and also designed the patterns for Michael's knickers, coat and vest and Jane's dresses, skirt and coat.

By tomorrow night I will have spent 192 hours prepping this production. This includes reading scripts, watching other productions, planning, sourcing items online, shopping, making patterns, working with my students during class time, sewing, finishing, fitting, cleaning, pressing, everything! This doesn't include sleepless nights or the hours I spent dreaming (literally) about the show.

My student worker has also put a lot of time into this production. She works 19 hours per week and has been working on Mary Poppins since the last week of December. That totals to 145 hours. She conducts lab hours with my students who are working on the production. She has made several of the hats, worked wigs, conducted fittings, made fittings appointments and pretty much done whatever I have asked of her. She is awesome.

The students taking my class for credit have spent all their class time and lab hours this semester working on the production. That totals 54 hours per student and I have 5 students in the class this semester or 270 hours. Beyond that several of them have put in 36 extra hours combined.

Five other students have also come in to help with fittings, sewing and costume creation. These four combined have donated 125 hours of their free time. One of those dedicated students accounted for 62 of those hours and another put in 45!

I've also had 9 community members come in to help out. Four of those helpers are under the age of 16 and love coming in to play in the costumes and hone their sewing skills. The others enjoy sewing and chatting. These wonderful women have put in a combined 75 hours of service to the costume shop.

So between me, my student worker, my students, volunteer students and community members a total of 843 man hours have gone into the production of the costumes for Mary Poppins this semester.  The bulk of those hours have been over the past 3 weeks.

Wow! I am always amazed at the numbers when we get done with the show and I'm always impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm that the students and community have for local theater. It is a joy to see and be a part of. Will have pictures tomorrow!

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