Friday, January 29, 2010

The taxman cometh....

You probably know by reading my blog titles that I like to parody famous songs, phrases, or other author's words...somehow that gives some credibility to my writing that I don't have by making things up on my own.

A couple of weeks ago, it was the milkman who cometh, now it is the taxman. Isn't the real title " The Iceman cometh"? I'll have to research that.

Anyway, we all know that the taxman cometh, or we can keep him from cometh-ing in person by being dutiful and preparing our tax returns on time, submitting them, sometimes laying out great deals of cash to the taxman, or waiting patiently for him to return some of the excess money we've lent him over the past year. If the taxman cometh to your house, "yo in a heap of trouble, boy!"

So, I'm ready for the drill. It took me 3 hours to get it all together this morning, but the receipts, 1099s, w-2s and other stuff are all arranged, numbers written neatly for the accountant to review, and ready for Monday afternoon's appointment to get my tax return prepared.

I think being ready on Feb. 1 is a record for me, the earliest that I have been ready for this event. I just hope I have good news, find out that I am owed, rather than I owe ( "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go...." Another parody!), and get the whole messy affair over and done with. I'm not one who will get huge bunches of money back, but if I don't have to pay a bunch, I'll be rejoicing!

Here's hoping!

Waiting..... waiting.... waiting.....

Waiting for what? For a big snowstorm to finally get to our fair city and make it all pretty and white again.

It has blasted areas south of us, but so far, not a flake has been seen in our town.

Should we be glad or sad? Until I'm home for the weekend, I'm glad. If it were a Monday morning, I'd be sad!

Maybe our waiting will pay off. Until something actually happens, life is on hold!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

It has been icky, dreary, cold, windy, downright blustery and sometimes spitting snow at us for the past week. If you see the sun, better run outside quick, because you won't be seeing it for long.

So, the only thing for me that can make this kind of icky weather bearable is if it gets downright serious about snowfall, and GIVES US A SNOWDAY! Hope springs eternal, everytime I see it start to snow!

The last round of snow causing schools to close happened during the first week of January, when I wasn't in school yet for the spring semester. So, while it was a snow day for some, it was just an ordinary "ignore it and it might go away" snowy day for me.

Today, a snowstorm snuck up on us. It was dreary as usual. Clouds loomed low in the sky. I remember thinking for a fleeting moment, "those look like snow clouds, but the weatherman said it would not come here." So I went home and took a little nap. I was awakened at 3 with the weatherman on TV quickly backpeddling from his former erroneous forecast to tell us all it was snowing, and when I looked outside, he wasn't kidding! It was coming down heavy and fast, very thick big snowflakes!

Today was my day to pick up the grandkids from school and babysit until mom got off work. With the snow coming down as heavy as it was coming then, I immediately pushed the panic button, envisioned snow shoeing over hill and dale to get them at 4:30, so I sprung into action to arrange to pick them up early. I looked out, and the darn snow had stopped. I got in my car anyway, and by then, the snow was heavy again. Then I drove down the street, and it had turned to rain.

So, hope had sprung eternal for a big snow storm, and a SNOW DAY tomorrow. But the fickle weather is not going to cooperate. The moon was trying to beam through the clouds as we loaded up the grandkids for home, and the snow that did fall is all but gone.

Maybe next time--I hope to get a real snow day some time this winter!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Appreciation.....

New hardware to be enshrined in my home, as of Jan. 23, 2010. Enshrined among the scraps of fabric, unused costume pieces, sewing patterns, etc., etc., etc!

My name on "Special Award" trophies given for Stepping Out and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!

Last night, the Hawthorne Players hosted their annual awards banquet. Members of the group get to vote on those people who have done outstanding work through the past season. It is sort of like our own Oscar party. Awards are given to the best actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, cameo role. Directors and best show of the season are given awards, as well as the technical aspects of lighting design, set design, sound design. I think the list is complete..oh, oh, did I miss something? Like costume design? Let me check the list, no it isn't one of the categories.

I have costumed every show that this theatre group did (regular season shows, not their "best of Hawthorne" show, which is self-costumed by the participants) since they did "A Christmas Carol" in Dec. 2007. I guess they like my work because they keep asking me to do more. Either that, or they know I'm a sucker and will do it when no one else wants to do it! I've had a lot of fun doing this. You know from this blog that sometimes it gets tedious, sometimes I'm not liking it, sometimes it is hectic, sometimes I wish I would have never said yes to doing it. But, for the most part, I really enjoy costuming, and I take the good with the bad.

An actor or actress gets their kicks from "the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd". You are performing and entertaining, and that is your reward. If you are lucky enough to turn pro, you get some bucks in addition to the other rewards. We're community theatre, so that isn't the pay-off.

As a costumer, you don't quite get that kind of buzz from what you have done. If you make the director happy, or even just yourself happy with what you have created, then there is your reward. But it is nice to be honored for your work, appreciated for what you have done, when you've poured your heart and soul, and many hundreds of hours into your work. You make the actors and actresses look good, and they are for the most part appreciative, you help them portray their part in the show. And most actresses and actors love to dress up and look good, or silly, or poor and ragged, whatever the part demands. The clothing can motivate--I've seen that more than once! Someone who just wasn't getting it changed the moment he or she put on the costume. That's why I continue to do it.

Last night, two of the three directors who I worked with this past year, decided to honor me and my work with them and their shows by giving me the "special award" for their show. Not one but two! The third one, tongue in cheek said, as he praised my work, "No Jean, you aren't getting the award!" Everybody roared! He gave his award to a very deserving new member, who came in and shared his extraordinary talents to create exquisite set pieces for that show. We all know his value to our group!

I am so appreciative of recieving these awards from two directors who I love working with and whose work I respect greatly. The first director said, "Jean and I have bonded by sharing the sadness of losing our spouses in the same month". That is so true. And we bonded one day in early 2007, when I was costuming a show she was in, we bonded by sharing our stories of our losses in the back of Hancock Fabrics! A fitting place for beginning a wonderful friendship that I cherish deeply.

The second director, who herself was given awards for being the best director of the year, as well as her show being chosen best show (Joseph....Amazing Dreamcoat--it truly was amazing!) She deserved much praise because the original director for this show had to drop out just 10 days before auditions because of a family loss, and Renee stepped in and took over without a hiccup! The production staff for the most part agreed to stay on, and I was a part of that group. She was so supportive, giving of her very miniscule free time to come over to my house to help with the costumes. We tie-dyed together, she "be-jeweled" the Egyptian collars with hot-glue gun in hand, helped me hand sew 50+ snaps on the breakaway coat of many colors. I appreciated her help so much, plus I got to know her better, and we shared some "visions" for the play as we worked on costume pieces.

So, thank you, Hawthorne Players. I appreciate that fact that my work is appreciated. I hope to spend many more years as a costumer for your theatre group. The trophys are just a little added extra bonus for me besides the fun and satisfaction I get from making/providing costumes for your group's plays!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yet another opening, another show!

Scenes from Midsummer Night's Dream, by Clayton Community Theatre
Titania and the fairies
Titania played by Talichia Noah, who was also in Clayton Community Theatre's production of "Doubt" as Mrs. Muller--outstanding actress!
The Mechanicals planning their play for the Duke and his bride

Tonight is opening night for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare, presented by Clayton Community Theatre at Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Rd.

Show times: Jan 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m., Jan. 24 and 31 at 2:00 p.m.

It is going to be a very entertaining show! Hope you can come!

We struggled to get good pictures in this low light theatre, these are some of mine, but MonkeyGirl and a professional photographer took over 1000 shots, hope we can get a few decent ones out of those! I'll post them later.

My jobs for the last day were thus:
Find a new pair of pants for Lysander, he ripped the knee out of the ones I gave him when he tripped going off stage (it was a staged trip, hope he doesn't rip any more pants during the run!)
Laundrying Lysander's rumpled pink shirt
Making a new sign for Wall

And return a bunch of borrowed and purchased stuff that isn't going to be used.

It will be a busy day, and I will earn my sleep in tomorrow morning, because today will be non-stop until late tongiht!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Work trumps Leisure!

Darn, I hate when this happens!

Work has trumped my leisure time activity of gathering and building costumes for the play that starts in 6 days.

I must say that I haven't been completely idle when it comes to the costuming gig, it is just that no significant progress has been made since Monday.

Monday--got up early to make the lion head. Left work on time, came home to finish it, and took my previous week's worth of gathered and built stuff to rehearsal to try on the actors and get direction from the director. THIS DAY WAS PRODUCTIVE!

Tuesday--Work was very busy. Met with teachers, interviewed 8 potential students. Spent a good 6 hours at work. That night, I brought a cut-away coat to play practice for very tall man to try on--it was too short. Wanted to try on a muslin for an actress, she was home sick. NOT MUCH PROGRESS THIS DAY, EXCEPT TO GO TO PLAN B OR PLAN C for the coat.

Wednesday--family funeral WAYYYY down south in a community about 35 miles from my house. Contacted my favorite costume rental shop to find a longer cut-away coat. I didn't hear if they had one, a problem because I was very close to their warehouse when I was attending the funeral. On my way home, at least I went to another thrift store to look for more stuff, and found a few things, nothing earth-shaking. Did not go to rehearsal that night because I didn't know if the actress was going to be there. Ended up snoozing the evening away because I had a massive headache! SOME PROGRESS FINDING POSSIBLE PLAN B OR PLAN C GARMENTS FOR OTHER CHARACTERS.

Thursday--work begins to really trump costuming! Had to deal with lots of stuff, orienting teachers, changing class sections, waiting for decisions to see if some classes would be cancelled. Then had to go to a meeting of colleagues at the WAYYY down south campus. Heard from the costume shop, yes they did have a cut-away that could work. Good thing, because that shop is on the same road as the college where my meeting was. Came home at 4:45--went to choir practice at 7, then play practice at 8:30. They were doing something odd, saying all the lines in the dark theatre. My tall man wasn't there, and the director didn't want me to rent a coat--great! All that travel for nothing. Tried on the bodice for the actress, and know what to do with that, must make more adjustments on that. A COUPLE OF STEPS BACKWARD, AND MAYBE ONE INCH FORWARD!

Friday--NOT ONE COSTUME ISSUE SOLVED TODAY! I had arranged to have a tall wooden fence built in my daughter's back yard to keep the dogs in and the riff-raff out. That started at 8, then to work to plug away for 7 hours on writing syllabi, preparing schedules, copying handouts for my two classes that start Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. Left work at 3:15 to see the completed fence, which is lovely, and to pay my bill to them. Came home and waited for friends to meet me for dinner and a free show. NO PROGRESS TODAY.

SO, TIME IS PASSING, AND THE COSTUMES ARE STILL NOT FINISHED! I hope that this weekend will be productive and I get done what I need to get done.

My biggest issue right now, getting myself out of the computer chair and down to the sewing room! Wish me luck! COME ON GIRL, YOU NEED TO GET IT IN GEAR!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Lion Roars Tonight!


Part of the Play within the play in Midsummer Night's Dream transforms one of the characters into a lion. No words spoken here, just growling!

I worked for about 3 hours putting all this hair on the mane! Turned out pretty spectacular, if I may say so myself!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Milkman Cometh

The Iceman came first, now......

Thisby is one of the mechanicals in Midsummer Night's Dream. The mechanicals are people who are planning to put on a play for Hippolyta and Thesius's wedding celebration. The personna of Thisby is lily-white, pure of heart, so hence......


Now this is a costume that would be hard to find at a thrift store! Quality Dairy, one of two big dairies that used to deliver in St. Louis, has been gone for over 30 years! I used Quality Dairy to deliver my milk, and it was quite convenient when I had little kids and no car! I was devastated when it went out of business! I found an artifact on eBay with the Quality Dairy logo, and tried to recreate it as closely as I could with my embroidery machine.

So here is Thisby's lily-white costume that I just built. I made the hat using a circa early 1900's Simplicity pattern, 2581, which has a man's and woman's duster coat and hat, made for riding in an open car. It was a challenge to get the crown to sit correctly, took a couple of rip outs and resews to get it right. I sure hope it fits! I think it looks pretty good. The coat was a jacket pattern that I had and the pants are a boxer pattern made long.

Thisby makes a change during the show as a mechanical during the play within the play. In that segment, he portrays the part of a woman, so he will have a costume change, one that might prove to be very hilarious! That personna will be Dorothy of Oz fame--my partner is making that dress. Can't wait to see it!

I've been doing quite a bit of shopping of sales and thrift stores to find the other costume elements. I have a lot in the collection right now, I need to share what I've pulled together with the director and actors on Monday. Then I'll know where to go from here.

P.S., I found my royal blue jacket for Oberon yesterday in an obscure little store in a semi-closed-down mall. But this is a brand new store full of promise and full of merchandise, and the prices are right! I have to check with the director on whether he still wants to go this direction, then pick it up Tuesday.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Time flies when you are having....snow?????

I don't know where the first full week of January went. In one way, I'm glad it went fast, because January has always been my least favorite month of the year. Why? Need you ask? It is cold, nasty, windy, snowy, dreary, and as a teacher, the end of the school year is a lo-o-o-o-ng way off. My dear mother got sick and died this month, my dear father-in-law got sick and died in early February, my father died in March, so these months hold sad memories for me. Besides that, the Christmas bills make the budget tight, and my school doesn't pay the first paycheck of the spring semester till mid--February. I could go on and on, you get the gist of why I hate this month.

But I digress. The time this week went fast, and I'm not sure what exactly I accomplished. I was hoping to have most of the costumes for Midsummer Night's Dream collected or constructed, but that is not the case. I did get the Christmas stuff put away, at least the inside stuff. The outside stuff is frozen solidly to the ground, so that will have to wait for the January thaw. I rescued the "Holy Family" and brought it inside to the dining room where it waits to be put away in the garage.

Yesterday was spent coccooning because of frigid snowy, blizzardy conditions outside. It was a snowday! That's what you do on a snowday! I did manage to snowblow the driveway, walk and porch. Today, you can hardly tell I touched the walk and porch, because the wind blew all the snow off the roof on to the walk and porch. Oh well, let it be white. It continues to blow snow outside, interspersed with snow flurries and snow squalls to add to the whiteness. I think today is another day to coccoon.

But I must get to sewing something today. I have a lot of projects to complete, and need to get started on them. Here's what is on the sewing table: Milkman's outfit, pants, jacket and hat; Queen of the Amazon's sheath dress; lion's head; donkey's head; fitting muslin for a different top for Titania, Queen of the fairies; bus driver's hat. If I can get that done, we are much closer to being done. I have a lot of stuff lined up for my actors and actresses, much untried at this time, but at least we're closer than we were last Friday.

Wish me luck, and hopefully I will sew January, 2010 into oblivion!

P.S. while working on this stuff this week, I got two requests for 2 more outfits for other theatre people--that will have to wait til this show is over! Just one outfit for each request, but it will still have to wait.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The gods of costuming smile down on us!

Costuming a show set in a certain period can be a challenge. Far distant periods are easy, you know you need to build most everything. And lately the pattern companies have responded to the fact that there are many re-enactors, Renaissance fairs, and adults who like to go to costume events. So, they have produced a LOT of really great patterns, including many with exquisite details, such as Civil War costumes.

The director of Midsummer Night's Dream has decided to set the show in the '50's-60's. "That's the 1950's, not 1750's! (to quote the artistic director Sam Hack when he spoke of this upcoming production). This time period suggests so many iconic images from TV and Hollywood, and we are going to try to recreate that look!

So, finding stuff that fits that period, that has the right cut, fabric selection, "reads" as true to the period is the challenge. I used my husband's high school year book to help me in this study. He graduated in the late '50's from an all-male school where everyone was cool!

The men wore: khaki pants (I remember most had a little fake back belt on them); narrow ties, narrow lapels; pleated fronts; cuffs, and BIG HAIR! Product was king back then, not the nice moussy stuff they use now, but BRILLCREAM (" A little dab will do-ya!") A greasy messy goo, that could be restyled during the day, and "Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb" was a song of the day, because you always needed your comb in your back pocket to restyle if the wind blew your pompador out of shape! Combs and mirrors, a must for guys in the '50's. I hope the props lady knows that she needs to provide a bunch of combs for these guys!

The women wore: poodle skirts! No, not everyone wore one of those! White blouses, a small scarf tied at the neck (when dating, this came in handy to cover the neck hickeys!); twin set sweaters; saddle oxfords; fake collars on sweaters (here's where my high school yearbook comes in handy, because that is what we were commanded to wear for our senior pictures); June Cleaver dresses; pearls!

We can fake the women's wear, because much ready-made stuff can be found that looks like the 50's, or it can be easily built. The men pose a different problem.

During my first thrift store forage for costume pieces, I found a perfect fitting jacket for one of my leading men, good color, found matching pants, it fit him well. It featured narrow lapels, 2 buttons, things that were found in that period of jackets. But there was something not quite right about it, and Scott, the director, figured it out--it had shoulder pads that were too massive. The cool guys of the 50's were more natural in the shoulder area.

So back to the drawing boards. Something compelled me to check my favorite (or equally favorite) thrift store in my neighborhood. There, hanging on the end of the rack, like it was put there by some higher authority, hung the perfect jacket. It's sleasy looking "lounge lizard" fabric drew me to it immediately. The cut was perfect, narrow lapels, ONE BUTTON (even better than 2 button!) It looked like it would fit.

Men's clothing is often not marked with size. If you do find a size label, it is usually buried in the inside pocket, many times washed out so badly you can't read it. So, while I was fishing around looking for the size tag, I spotted something. It was a label stating that this jacket was hand tailored for Mr. Morris on May 11, 1959! No wonder it looked period! It was made in that period! The gods of costuming certainly smiled on me yesterday! Next issue was, would it fit him? As I worked my way down the rack, I found another one, made for this same gentleman, same date, a little different cut. Not quite as perfect as the first one, but for $3.99, I took it also!

Took it to the theatre last night, and the gods continued to smile, because it fit my leading man perfectly, read like a 1950's TV show, and made the director smile (something that is becoming increasingly difficult for him to muster up lately as panic sets in!) I knelt and did a little "thank you" prayer for this one victory! I know now that my God is on my side for this costume venture--He had to guide me to that place and that time to find this perfect jacket. Not just generic gods or fates were invovled in this one, but the one true God, who is looking down and smiling on all of us! He's not just there for the big stuff, but He helps with the little stuff also!

Thank you, God!

On to the next costuming challenge, finding a royal blue, sleazy jacket or suit for the King of the Fairies, can I get that lucky to find something like that in ready made? We'll see, updates tomorrow!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Latest Costume Adventure

My costume adventures usually start with some study. I did a little LIGHT reading to begin this adventure! Light reading, my eye! I strained my hand just picking up this book, which belonged to my father.

I am not a Shakespeare scholar, never have been. I've read two or three of his plays as a duty in high school and college, and vaguely know where "Out, out, damned spot" comes from. My Father quoted Shakespeare often, and I know some of his favorite sayings came from various plays.

What Fools These Mortals Be! Now I know who uttered that phrase!

I read every word of "Midsummer Night's Dream" and I must say, I enjoyed doing it. The words are beautiful, and even though he modifies verbs by putting his negative adverb "not" after the verb, I still like it. After all, don't we put "not" at the end of phrases now-a-days? Like, I enjoy cold weather--NOT!

And now I know, Puck says the wise words about the foolish mortals!

So reading the play only helps me to understand the plot line, understand a little about the characters and their relationships, but does not help me to paint a picture in my mind of how they should be dressed. For this, I have to rely on the vision that the director, Scott, has in his mind. He wants iconic images, readily recognized, from the 1950's, '60's to say something about the characters. He wants color, style of clothing, and images from the past to help us understand the characters. Can you remember the Honeymooners? (To the moon, Alice!) You might see Ralph Kramden in this show. What about Father Knows Best? The kids will show up here! Remember when the Supremes and Diana Ross reigned supreme? You'll be reminded in this show. And that extra smooth lady, Diana Riggs from "The Avengers" will make an appearance also! And my high school yearbook may inspire some of the girls' costumes! I swear one of Scott's internet images shows exactly how we looked in our yearbook pics, way back when!

So this will be an adventure to say the least. It will be an adventure in thrift store shopping, closet cleaning, and maybe a bit of sewing. Luckily, I have an experienced costumer who will aid me in collecting, and we ought to have a great time shopping together! I'm up for a challenge, and this just has a few weeks to be pulled together.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cheeky Personal Trainer--Just what I needed!

I, like many others in the U.S., have a fascination with the stories shown in full living blubber on "The Biggest Loser". I'm amazed at what these people have to go through mentally, physically and emotionally to overcome their weight problems. And judging from the amount of flesh shown in the first month by these folks, their weight problems are gigantic! But, the transformations are amazing!

Now, if I were standing in front of American in my pink sports bra and jogging tights, I'l have more than enough to show, but never quite as much as these folks walk around with. So, to say I could use a personal trainer is not understatement. I need someone to goad me on to bigger and better things, or should I say smaller and better things! Smaller belly, smaller butt, smaller arms, etc. You catch my drift. Enter Bob and Jillian--could I have someone like them in my life?

Now, I have no real excuse for not getting into shape on my own. I have a perfectly good treadmill downstairs, paired with an equally nice elliptical machine. Both are instruments of torture in my estimation, especially my elliptical. I can't stand to be on that more than 11 minutes at a time, it is such a painful experience! Lately, they've made good clothes hangers, dust collectors and are definitely in the way when the exercise room becomes the costume shop. I have the TV set up in front of them, a pleasant room to work out in, and there is no excuse for their neglect. The bathroom scale reads the same as the one at the doctor's office, so why not get going?

Why not? It is all SOOOOOO PAINFUL!

Lately I've tried a different workout, it is called KettleBells. These are weights, shaped roughly like a tea kettle, with a rounded handle attached to a ball of weight. I got several weights, and 10 workout videos to use with them. So far, I've made it through 1-1/2 of the introductory workout with the Kettlebells. I think it was doing some good, but I found that I needed the extra time in the weeks before Christmas, so I haven't done Kettlebells since Dec. 11.

My children must have seen that mom needed an extra boost in her fitness regime, because I was gifted with a Wii Fit for Christmas. They wanted to set it up for me on Christmas day, and when it asked me to step on board in front of the entire family, I rebelled! I'll do this in the privacy of my own living room, thank you, not in front of the entire family! I'd make a terrible contestant on "The Biggest Loser"--I won't even fess up in front of my family!

So, today, I got time to set it up. Bad news--I'm obese, have a high BMI, need to lose 50+ pounds to be my ideal weight (which I haven't been since my youngest child was born!). And I'm inflexible, have bad posture, can't balance to save my life, and who know what other bits of bad news I could get. So what else is new? I chose a svelt young man as my personal trainer, he was gentle but straightforward about my lack of ability on the balance board. And now, I get the idea that he might sass me if I miss a day!

Just what I needed, a cheeky personal trainer. I'll have to let you know if he shames me into becoming fit.

Can't we just take a skinny pill and make all transgressions of the past melt away?