Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Doubt, the second time around

This is the second time I've costumed "Doubt: A Parable". This one is at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, Feb. 18-26, 2011.
Sister James--can you believe I costumed this young lady in 2007 in "The Music Man", now she is all grown up and is in college!
Mrs. Muller and Donald Muller. Mrs. Muller turned into a sophisticated "Jackie O" look alike when she put on this costume! Quite a change from her carefree casual college look! Donald gets to look good, but doesn't get to say anything!

Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley is quite a dramatic story set in the early 60's. Sister Aloysius, a crusty old nun with old fashioned ways and ideas, is afraid that the only black child in her school is being groomed by the parish priest for future "relationships". Her naive, inexperienced fellow educator, Sister James, has quite a difficult time with the possibilities that might be revealed. The show was done as a movie in 2008, with Meryl Streep playing Sr. Aloysius, Amy Adams as Sister James, and Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Fr. Flynn.

So far, I think this is the third time in 2 years that this show has been done here in St. Louis. I originally costumed Clayton Community Theatre's production of it in 2009. When I found out my college was doing it, I offered my costumes to them, and they were very happy to get them!

I know I've written about these costumes in the past, and the challenge was making the bonnets that this order of sisters wore at that time. They were not soft veils, but bonnets, somewhat like sun bonnets, but stiff. I remember trying to figure out how to make them, and the first attempt took days to do. Once I did one, the second one and third one took 20 minutes each! Thank heaven I saved them, because now they are being used again!

The director of this show added several characters to the play, mainly, the character of Donald Muller. He also added several other boys as altar boys, and they make a nice addition to the Mass scenes. Marie McCool, the theatre manager, who is really in charge of every technical element in the shows at this theatre, including costumes, made the server's surplices, with some beautiful lace decorating them. She also helped with Mrs. Muller's suit blouse, while I made the jacket and skirt.

The show starts this weekend, I can hardly wait to see the finished product. They did a fabulous set, with some beautiful stained glass set pieces, which turned out very nice. Hope I get access to some good pictures to share with you later!

Friday, February 11, 2011

First of "Reckless" pics

This part of the show Reckless was the most fun to create, one member of this scene is backstage at the time. It's fun to costume with absolute utter abandon, and wih a creative director saying, "Genius, go for it!"

Two of the reviewers commented thusly on this:
From Steve Callahan, KDHX "Costumes by Jean Heckmann are a delight, especially the glitzy, cheesy suit of the game show host and the mad gear worn by the contestants!"

From the Ladue News: "Jean Heckmann's costumes were most notewowrthy in the garish and gaudy game showe scene, with host Mark Abels alone worth the price of admission for his tawdry tie and painfully mismatched wardrobe."

I've gotten liminted response from reviewers for some of the bigger shows I've costumed, some commenting only on shoes, and in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream coat, no mention of the coat that took days to create! But that reviewer did like the Elvis Pharoah's blue suede shoes! For Oklahome, the only mention of the costumes was that the pig farmer's boots were too clean. Now, I try to pay closer attention to footwear these days, since the wrong footwear seems to draw attention away from everything else.

I'm pleased with the results of this show, I thought it turned out well as far as costuming. We made lots of trips to the local thrift store, and the outlet store for certain items, but things such as a purple and red lame suit coat can only be built, this one was fun to make and certainly made the proper impression for the character.

Hooray for this one!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


By the way.....

It's the season for award shows. We just saw the Golden Globes, and will see the Oscars in a couple of weeks. There were the SAG awards, or something like that on TV last weekend.

Well, in St. Louis community theatre world, it is the Arts for Life Awards. These awards are given to the best musical show in St. Louis done by a non-profit, non-professional community theatre group for the year. There are classifications for adult shows and for youth shows. They give the usual awards, best actor/actress, best supporting actor/actress, best cameo actor/actress, best comedic actor/actress, best actor/actress in a non-singing role. Then there is the best show award, and the production awards for best director, set design, musical directions, sound, lights,choreography and costumes.

If you have a goal in life to work for, it always is sweet if you actually make that goal. One of my goals in life was to be nominated by Arts for Life for the best costume design for one of the shows I costumed . For 2010, I did receive the nomination for best costume design for "The Producers". Actually, this show nabbed 13 nominations, which is the second best of all the shows who received nominations. Many have commented on how well our show was done, the elements that were great, so we have high hopes to take home some "hardware" on June 5, which is the date of the awards banquet. But there is high competition, so nothing is for certain!

The week before, our Hawthorne Players theatre group had their own awards banquet. These same categories are judged by the members, choosing the best of all of the shows that the group does during the year. Each production category is given an award, BUT THERE IS NO CATEGORY FOR COSTUMING. I'm not sure why not, but it has been a puzzlement to me why not. Costumers really do spend a lot of time working on shows, so why aren't they considered important enough to be recognized?

Again, many of the players and production team from "The Producers" won for being the best of the three within our own group. The director always gets a discretionary award to give to someone who was on the team who didn't receive an award, or who especially contributed to the show. Well, the Producers director gave that award to me!

So, I'm getting my "strokes" lately for my costuming work, and it feels mighty fine. I'm planning my gown for the red carpet walk for June 5, and will have my acceptance speech ready, just in case. I'll savor these moments, they really are kind of cool!


Here Birdie, Birdie!
The snowbirds make their appearance!
I wasn't sure what this was, but he was eating thistle seeds, of course, he is a gold finch in his winter colors! Beautiful!

The weatherman/women have been yapping about it for days, the biggest snowstorm of the the season was headed our way. Store shelves were emptied of bread, milk, and meat, kids were praying for snow days, and radar images scared us all.

The local NBC station yapped on all day long about the storm, yes, it is coming, yes, it will be here soon, yes, see the poor reporter standing out in the cold for 8 hours straight, waiting, waiting.....

The kids got their snow day, the reporters finally had something to measure, but the snow really didn't make its impact on our area. Now, 50 miles west of St. Louis, they closed down the entire interstate 70 all across Missouri. I got my snow day, and spent it absolutely doing nothing of importance!

But, one of my FB friends is making a habit of photographing birds in his backyard, and he is really good at it. It inspired me to photograph birds also, but there were none around for me to photograph. So I got some bird feeders, and put them out today.

Within 10 minutes, the first snowbird (slate colored junco)found the offering, and before long, he had communicated to his fellow snowbirds the bounty he found. I had lots of subjects to photograph.

I also bought a finch feeder. I know I've seen house finches in the neighborhood (the ones with the rosy heads). At times, I've seen goldfinches, but not often. I looked out and there on the finch feeder was a goldfinch. At first, I couldn't figure out what kind of bird it was, but the black and white wings were a tip off--it was a gold finch in its drab brown winter coat! Later the house finch showed up, but wouldn't cooperate to get into my viewfinder before he flew off.

So, I'm happy with the day's work. I got my pictures downloaded, which sounds easy, but I had used equipment in the past that is no longer in use to download, so I had to reinvent that whole process. I'm definitely interested in continuing this process, and hope to see many more feathered friends enjoying the bird feeders.

More Saga of Priests and Nuns

In November, my church put on a play based on the life of our patron saint, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. It was a great play, and I helped with making the costumes for the priests and nuns, plus I borrowed from my theatre group many costumes for the cast who were playing other parts.

I had several priests and nuns costumes that I had made in 2009 for the play Doubt. My college, Florissant Valley Community College is putting on Doubt this month. I offered my costumes to them to use, thinking the play in November would not interfere with a play in February.


The church play got noticed by EWTN, which is the Catholic cable network that broadcasts many different Catholic programs. EWTN thought filming this show would be a great addition to their programming, so they arranged to film the play. However, they didn't get it organized while the play was being run, so they planned to do it in early December. That day came and went and no film crew. Then it was supposed to be Dec. 19, but still no film crew. The director finally came to the conclusion in January that this was not going to happen, so I took my costumes for the college to begin to use them, since their play was cast and in rehearsal. They were getting nervous that maybe they WOULDN'T have costumes, beccause I had to keep stalling in bringing them in.

I took the costumes on a Wedneday, and on a Thursday, the director got the news that the EWTN people would come on Sunday, Jan. 30 to film the show. So, the costumes had to be brought back to the church, reorganized for the day of filming.

I was glad I wasn't part of the cast, because their filming took from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It was exhausting for them all. I came back to get my costumes after the filming that night.

So, now the costumes are at the cleaners, hopefully to be delivered back to Flo Valley on Thursday (however, the snowstorm "of the century" is going on right now, so I'm not sure if I can keep that deadline. But, at least, Flo Valley will get their priests and nuns costumes soon, and the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne film is on its way to be edited and shown on TV.

It was a crazy situation, and I was in the middle of it, but I think it will work out, at least I hope so.

Well, Hello again!

Christmas gifts at my house was centered around these!

I filled each of these pillowcases with Christmas gifts for the grandkids, baby great-granddaughter is too little for a regular pillow, she got a cute little duckie fleece pillow!
My daughter-in-law calls our gift giving frenzy "shock and awe", that's what it ended up being, the kids helped me put out the adults' gift and the adults put out the kids gifts, and it was truly shock and awe, with the whole tree loaded up with pillows!

Here it is, Feb. 1, 2011, and this is my first post of the new year. I've taken a lot of time off from blogging, mainly because I've been busy with lots of things. Let me count them off.

Right after I finished costuming those many events in October and November, (Halloween for family, helping with costuming "The Children's Hour" and "The Heart of Oak" play for my church), it was holiday time. Luckily, my daughter, Monkey Girl offered to host Thanksgiving so that took the pressure off to get the dining room table cleaned off of costume and fabric items! Then it was the end of the semester, with lots of essay reading, grading, an icky snow day on our last class day, and finally on Dec. 19, the semester was done. How many days did that leave to get ready for Christmas? Not very many.

A colleague of mine bought a new sewing machine, and she had to sign up for a class to learn the basics of using the machine in order to get a discount off the machine. She learned how to make the cutest pillow case. Now, how hard can a pillowcase be? Well, this one has french seams, a seperate border and rick-rack trim if you want to add that. To me, when she showed it to me, it didn't look like a beginner's project. But her pillowcases turned out so cute, I wanted to make them. I took advantage of the pre-Christmas sales on Christmas fabric, and started out making them for the grandkids to put their Christmas gifts in. Then I got an idea. I was going to give my kids either gift cards or money, how boring is that? So I made each one of them monogrammed pillowcases with a little pocket in each one to hold the cash. They were sort of non-thrilled with their Christmas gifts until someone discovered the pocket and what was in it. Then they got a little more interested!

Before Christmas, I had committed to work on costumes for a play that my friend Dr. J was directing, slated to start on Jan. 28. Prior to Christmas, we got going on collecting materials, designing costumes and adding ideas, but I had to put it all up for Christmas, since it was stacked on my dining room table. Then getting back into the groove after Christmas was a challenge for me. But, for the past 3-1/2 weeks, I've been pecking away at my costume building.

Here's what it involved: pink nighgown, Pooty-Bear PJs with bear fleece, Rudolf the red nosed reindeer and Santa Suit, complete with beard, boots and fur all around, Venus outfit--the most beautiful dress I've ever made. Made from white fabric with silver sequin fabric trim down the front and on the 1 yard long arm drapes, trimmed with malibou looking knitted strips (Dr.J's specialty!) Venus also wore a long white curly wig and a Venus planet on her head. Mother earth wore a brown, green, blue, stone encrusted dress with an earthly planet on her head, over a little old lady wig, and the "sun", he wore yellow beach bum clothes with the cutest Sun on his head. His wig was crazy, black and red flame tendrils, so fitting for the hot sun! These characters were part of a "Let's Make a Deal" type game show, hosted by Tim Tinko, wearing a purple and red lame jacket, yellow shirt, cue ball tie, purple plaid pants, and bright purple belt, yellow socks and red Converse shoes--bright enough, don't you think? Other characters were the Queen of Hearts, The White Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland, who were denied the opportunity to play the game show. "Cupid" was the helper in this show, she wore a cute pink crushed velvet leotard, darling netting tutu skirt, pink tights and leg warmers, and wings trimmed with hot pink maribou. She was a scene stealer every time she came on stage!

Dr. J and I had a "discussion" about the planets for this scene. I envisioned them as flat circles worn on headbands over their crazy wigs. Dr. J wanted them to be balls. Since I had the flat circles made, glue, painted and ready to go, I was a somewhat disgruntled costumer upon getting this news. So, in a snow storm, I went to the craft store, charged $65 for materials, and Dr. J had her round ball planets. I must say, they did turn out very cute, but they were very time consuming to make, and they were finished about 2 days before the play started!

Monkey Girl came to my rescue with her fabulous Criket machine. One of the characters wears a University of Alaska sweatshirt. Now, cutting out all of those letters would have tried my patience for sure, but the Criket machine made short work of the job, and it turned out very well. Thank you darling daughter, you always come to my rescus in these crazy costuming gigs.

I think that was all I built, but I had to find men's pjs, two doctor's lab coats, various shoes and dresses (had tons of help from Dr. J, who discovered the glory of shopping at the local thrift store! She found most of the purchased stuff.) The show is called "Reckless", it has only 9 actors and actresses, but each person plays many many roles. It opened last weekend, and we had great audiences, one more weekend and that one is put to bed. Dr. J will be so sorry to have it be finished, she put her heart and soul into this and it was truly fabulous!

Pictures of Reckless will follow some time soon, we had a professional photographer take these, and he promised me a CD of his pictures, but I don't have it yet. Will post when I get them. In the mean time, you can see some of it on the website for Clayton Community Theatre.

In the meantime--the priests and nuns show tried my patience big time! More on that in the next post!