Jul 09, 2020
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Sew far, sew good

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Marina Gaytan / The Collegian

A play without costumes is like a cupcake without frosting. For the productions at Fresno State, the university theater costume shop provides that topping.

Last month, the costume crew completed designs and alterations in time for the showing of the theater arts’ first play of the 2009 school year, “Picnic,” directed by Thomas Whit-Ellis.

Whit-Ellis worked closely with costume technician Kelly Pantzlaff in creating the costumes for the characters in the play.

Pantzlaff said during her research for the costume designs, she paid close attention to the details of the clothing worn in the 1950s to stay true to the era.

“I researched the places where people would be buying their clothes at that time, so I went through some Sears catalogs from the ’50s and I also looked at some television shows to see what the characters were wearing at that time,” Pantzlaff said.

That attention to detail, Pantzlaff said, was most apparent in what the main female characters wore on stage, from the buttons that were sewn near the zips of their dresses to the silhouettes of the women’s clothing and the accessories they wore in that time period such as hats and belts.

Some details that were very subtle, yet very distinguishable from the 1950s were the yarn designs she added to the robes of the characters.

The costume designs for “Picnic” were a collaborative effort between the director and some of the theater arts students.

One of the design crews more involved wardrobe accessories was a piece of jewelry adorned by one of the male characters.

“The director wanted me to make Allan, the guy who’s playing the millionaire, look very casual, but rich. So the actor suggested to play a Freemason,” Pantzlaff said. “So we purchased a ring on eBay that has a Freemason flair that shows that he is from a rich family.”

Funding for the costume shop came from the production budget that was setup for them before the semester started. “Fortunately for us, whatever budget cuts the school went through this year, we weren’t badly affected by it,” Pantzlaff said.

Conversely, Pantzlaff said the process for making the costumes is extensive and laborious. Most of the costumes are made from scratch, but in order to save time, money and energy, the costume shop crew sifted through their stock and altered costumes worn in previous plays.

Students from the theater crafts course also contributed their time and effort to the manufacture of the costumes.

Linguistics major Katie Rhames said she was interested in how costumes were made, so she decided to enroll in a theatre crafts class. She said it has been an interesting experience to learn how the backstage production of costume design works since she helped sew the trims on several of the dresses for the play.

“The whole process is fun, and I find the class really interesting since costumes are a very important part of identifying the whole setting of the play,” Rhames said.

Currently, the costume shop is working on design production for the plays “Welcome Home Jenny Stutter,” which will open at the end of October, and “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,” which will start showing on Dec. 4.

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