BY CARY GINELL
VC On Stage’s purpose is to showcase people who work in musical theater or plays in the Ventura County area, not only performers, but behind-the scenes folk as well. Today we present an interview with Beth Glasner, one of the many talented costume designers in VC theater. Beth is currently working on the Conejo Player’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot and we had some layman’s questions to ask her.
VCOS: Spamalot appeared to have a LOT of costumes. About how many were used and what shows have you worked on that have more?
BETH: There are about 100 costumes, along with hats, belts, boots, gaiters (boot-toppers designed and made by Skylar Adams), shawls, scarves, aprons, and special hosiery. I have worked on shows with more costumes (The King and I, Les Miserables, The Music Man). And those shows didn’t necessarily have more costumes because they had more actors – each of our Spamalot actors plays numerous parts (some of the girls play as many as 8 different roles).
VCOS: What percentage of the costumes did you have to design and create yourself?
BETH: “Designing” a show is often a misunderstood concept. Being a costume designer means that you choose the clothing that the actors are going to wear. I believe that “designing” doesn’t just mean you have to dream up the idea and actually sew it yourself. Of course, there are always costumes that I do dream up and sew myself, or ask my team to sew, but there are also costumes that I choose to either rent or buy.
I created or borrowed or purchased (as opposed to rented) about 30% of this show. Penny Krevenas designed and sewed the Laker Girl cheerleading costumes and did a beautiful job. Prince Herbert, the can-can girls, the “French people”, the Peasants, the YMCA dancers, the Head Ni Knight, Prince Herbert as a bride, the Jewish grail dancers, and Lady of the Lake were some of the costumes that were not rented.
VCOS: Was there one that you were glad you didn’t have to do?
BETH: The Black Knight, with his removable limbs. (Although my costume crew did a FABULOUS job making the rental costume oh so much better!
VCOS: What was the biggest challenge for you in this show?
BETH: The biggest challenge was making sure that all the actors were able to make their quick changes. Some actors have as many as 4 costumes on at a time, in order to be able to peel off a layer to go into their next scene. Another challenge was making certain that the actor’s costumes worked well with their props (which were fantastically created by Roger Krevenas).
VCOS: Did you have to figure out a way to design the Black Knight’s costume?
BETH: The rental company provided the Black Knight costume, but it was up to my team and me to perfect it. Many revisions were made, adding pieces that made the costume more believable and workable.
VCOS: When you rent costumes, what happens regarding sizes? Are they usually adjustable to suit different proportioned performers?
BETH: Renting costumes is sometimes a tricky business. Some rental companies build in large seams on the sides of garments, so they can be let out or taken in for the actors’ needs. Some rental companies don’t! I’ve been known to remove zippers and add a panel, or add ruffles to the bottoms of dresses, or use sticky strips of insulation to make a hat smaller!
VCOS: Were there a lot of quick changes during the show? How does this work?
BETH: Every one of our 19 actors has quick changes – some of them have 2 or 3 or 4! We have several quick-change stations backstage where there are clothing racks and hooks and lights and mirrors, to facilitate this. And some actors layer costumes on top of each other in order to be faster at their quick changes.
VCOS: How do you work with the props people – since many accessories, like swords, and other paraphernalia are often integrated into the costume design?
BETH: Prop designers and I work together constantly – coordinating belts, holders, pockets, head sizes, and even colors. Roger Krevenas is an amazing prop designer – being an actor himself, he inherently understands the need for props to be accessible, useful, and safe.
VCOS: Have there been any “emergencies” regarding costumes that either don’t do what they’re supposed to do, or something comes undone?
BETH: There are ALWAYS costume emergencies. Seams come undone, costumes rip, zippers explode, hats fall off, Velcro doesn’t rip apart properly. The trick to this is to have someone backstage during every show who is able to do the minor fixes, and then a clipboard listing costume repairs that need to be done that is checked after every single show. Claire Rhine has been my constant backstage help. Claire also does many “after-show” repairs.
Monty Python’s Spamalot plays at the Conejo Players Theatre in Thousand Oaks through December 14. For dates and showtimes, consult the VC On Stage Calendar. See our review of the show in the Thousand Oaks Acorn: http://www.toacorn.com/news/2013-11-21/On_the_Town/Songs_help_tell_the_story_in_Spamalot.html