Joco Diversions

Volunteer knows secret to great theater involves a wizard in the costume department

Creating costumes for this production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a joy, but exhausting.
Creating costumes for this production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a joy, but exhausting. Special to The Olathe News

I’ve been trying to come up with a common phrase that best describes extreme volunteerism, an infliction for some.

Maybe binge giving? What about deliberately un-hoarding your time? Or excessively not giving attention to anything or anyone in your house. This might be the one my family uses for me every few years.

Lately I’ve become the queen of volunteerism, but only when it comes to the theater. I gave the PTO and other church events my time years ago, but if you’ve got a theater and I’ve got a kid to put on a show, it’s likely I will be over-serving in the costume department.

I love costuming. I love the people, the creativity and the sharing of ideas and concepts – but my favorite part is when there is a need for a certain costume piece that needs to be created from scratch. I’m not talking about grabbing a pattern from the sewing shop, perusing and touching all of the fabrics and then following the instructions. That’s not how I roll.

I’m more of the search for something in my kitchen that resembles the idea I have in my head. For example, recently I co-lead costumes for a delightful version of the stage play of “The Wizard of Oz.” More than 60 young girls and boys were cast to play the famous quartet, plus handfuls of characters playing inanimate objects: Trees, crows, tornadoes, poppies, munchkins and the flamboyantly emerald Ozians. Plus, a few other groups just added for the stage.

How often do you ask yourself, “If I were a poppy, what kind of headwear would I choose? And would the head flair change when the snow falls on them?” I’m sure the answer would be “not often” for most folks.

Or if someone decides they need a miniature bellboy hat (or 15) and none can be found in the recesses of the costume catacombs, how would you create a durable hat that can withstand the rigors of young boys flying across the stage and doing monkey business? Don’t tell anyone, but the answer is a lot of cereal boxes and duct tape. You can thank me later.

Growing up in children’s theater, I wore numerous creations, but never did I think about all of the time and effort it took to put them together. I was thankful my mother hand-sewed all of the ruby sequins on my shoes, but that’s as far as I processed. I imagined costumes to be stored back behind the big curtain and gifted to the actor for the first dress rehearsal.

In fact, hundreds of hours, too many to document, are spent making munchkin’s outfits the actual colors of the rainbow, or creating the painstaking vision of young girls resembling flying tornadoes. Tornadoes need to appear realistic, and as any Kansas girl knows, that’s pretty intense.

So after four delightful months of collaborating with design and creating, my traveling sewing machine and I were glad to park back in our old comfortable storage spot. We are both pooped after a long weekend of fabulous performances. The kids were delightful and lit up the stage. Much less important in children’s theater are the costumes, but if I say so myself, they were a success as well.

As I write this, I’m so glad for the experience, but Dorothy said it best: “There’s no place home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like London.”

Oops. After all this binge volunteerism, Mama is ready for a vacation. And until next time, cheers!

Stacey Hatton will return in two weeks after her much needed vacation to London.

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