COSTUMES IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Suzanne Childers
A favorite book of mine is "Love in the Time of Cholera", by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My silly sense of humor has been calling this very serious time in our world as "the year of the cholera". I have been self isolating like the rest of you, doing my part to help flatten the curve.As I am a 'glass half full' person, I have been finding the positives in all of this, one being my hands no longer ache from all the sewing I did for "Pirates of Penzance". Lo and behold, I am back up to typing over 100 wpm … my typing skills being the reason why I am verbose when I write! So that said, let me introduce myself to you in a blog I wrote before "the time of cholera".
I am Suzanne "Soozi" Childers, the costumer for the Surfside Playhouse.Last August, I saw a post on Facebook that said, "Surfside Playhouse is hiring a costumer."I had been living in Melbourne for almost 3 years, having moved from Las Vegas and Reno/Tahoe to be closer to family, as well as to slow down a bit where my career was concerned.Having costumed many shows before, from community to professional theatre, I was interested in the job.My career however, started as a dancer.
I had recently finished a 3-year contract with Silversea Cruises, producing their entertainment for their 5 ships.My company, Choozi Entertainment LLC and its subsidiary costume arm, Choozi by Design, had been in operation for 13 years.I was ready to take a break from such high end, difficult work, as the Silversea contract followed on the heels of a contract with Royal Caribbean, creating the first ever dive show for the Aquatheatre on the Oasis of the Seas.While I wanted to slow down, I did not want to retire from my career entirely, so I started teaching ballet for a local dance school.I was into my 3rd year with Dance Arts Centre when I applied for the position at Surfside.I looked carefully at the season posted on the website, to ensure there would be no conflicts with my teaching schedule, and seeing the month of May was open, (recital season for the studio), I decided to throw my hat into the ring.I was so pleased when I was informed I 'got the job'.I love working at Surfside!
My career began in 1965 as a baby ballerina on CBS Television.While my trajectory was always in dance, I had learned to sew when I was 8, designing things for myself, as well as my Barbie dolls.My sewing skills came in handy in almost every show I performed in.Working in Japan, the dry cleaner had melted the beads on our costumes, so I volunteered to replace them all.While traveling with a Top 40 show-band in the early 70's, I costumed the routines I choreographed.When I retired from the stage in the early 80's, I opened a dance studio in the San Francisco Bay Area, while creating shows for the casinos of Nevada.This is when I began designing and fabricating costumes in earnest.
I have been a costume designer now for over 30 years, having designed costumes for the National Tour of "Aida", Broadway Asia's "Sponge Bob Square Pants – the Sponge Who Could Fly", Lake Tahoe Shakespeare's 2008 season, which included Richard III, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as the costumes for "Oasis of Dreams", my tutus for the 'water ballet' now iconic to RCCL's advertising campaigns.My costumes have been featured in many periodicals, including "Travel and Leisure" magazine.
I am blessed to have worked with top costume designers, as well as having worn Nolan Miller and Bob Mackie costumes when I was dancing.The construction techniques of their garments were impeccable!My mentor, Jerry Jackson, has his entire costume design career catalogued at the University of Las Vegas. https://www.library.unlv.edu/speccol/finding-aids/MS-00573.pdf.I worked with Mr. Jackson for 25 years, first as a dancer in his shows, then as his Assistant Choreographer in the Bahamas, Mexico, and Las Vegas.Much of what I know about costume design and fabrication, I learned from Jerry.Do check out the link above to see his fascinating collection.
My passion is in design.My first show for Surfside was the recent "Curtains" (designs below).My first meeting with Bryan Bergeron, Surfside's Director, included showing him my designs for the principal characters, as I had looked online for the show's costume plot, and not being able to find one, developed one myself.A costume plot is integral to the design of a show, as it delineates every costume piece an actor will wear, broken down by Acts and Scenes.I have never costumed a show without one.In subsequent blogs, I will detail the importance of a proper costume plot, the design process itself, including the research necessary for period costuming, costume fabrication techniques (different from clothing fabrication), and finally how to render designs and technical flats, from which costume shops work.
welcome any questions you might have as to any of the above.I look forward to continuing this costume conversation and chatting again soon.