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Costume Designer Pay and Community Theatre

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  • Molly Dewane
    I agree wih Sylvia. Until fall of last year, I costumed community theater shows for free. What did I get for my time and talent? Not much. Too often,
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 8, 2006
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      I agree wih Sylvia. Until fall of last year, I costumed community theater shows for free. What did I get for my time and talent? Not much. Too often, community theater directors do not know how to work with any kind of designer, especially a costume designer. Community theaters I know have a hard time with the concept of taking care of inventory (e.g. laundry, dry cleaning, proper storage). Community theater producers usually don't understand the concept of budget. Of course, I can't forget most community theater shows I've costumed inevitably have an actor of mammoth proportions (how about a guy with a chest of 72, waist of 74 and hips 77 who thinks I"m not doing a good enough job because I'm not hand tailoring period clothing for his ten lines on stage?). My last experience with a community theater resulted in the theater not reimbursing my approved, reasonable expenses. I costumed a huge musical by myself (my volunteers did not follow through) while my mother was
      seriously ill. I don't think anyone thanked me and the director's vision of the musical contained more costumes than either Broadway production. I designed an entire season for that theater and I'm so disgusted with the way I was treated, I doubt I will ever design for community theater again.

      Costuming is an art and requires as much talent as the talent required to direct a play or musical. Do you think any of the groups who think anyone can costume can intelligently discuss fashion silhouettes of various eras, drape a garment, make a pattern or even sew on a button? I doubt it.

      The best rates I've seen for design range from $50 to $150 for a play and $50 to $500 for a musical. If it's a show you love, do it because you love the show but make sure you have a contract CLEARLY outlining duties and timelines. My other pet peeve for community theater are producers who give you less than 24 hours notice to set up a complicated photo shoot barely a week into rehearsal and wonder why you don't have costumes finished.

      Good luck! Stand up for your talent-you're worth it!

      Molly
      www.mollydewane.com



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    • Julia Trimarco
      Do you think any of the groups who think anyone can costume can intelligently discuss fashion silhouettes of various eras, drape a garment, make a pattern or
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 13, 2006
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        "Do you think any of the groups who think anyone can costume can intelligently discuss fashion silhouettes of various eras, drape a garment, make a pattern or even sew on a button?"

        It would be fun to test this theory. The next time some idiot says anything dumb to you about how easy it is to costume (anyone can sew, right? we all wear clothes, right?), just reply intelligently, start a conversation throwing in all the lingo, the shop talk you can think of. "We'll, you know Fortuny died without revealing his pleating method, but I'm sure you can build me a reasonable facsimile of his Empire style. Just remember to allow for an Edwardian elasticized corset and you'll be fine."
        Anything you can think of to get their eyes to glaze over the way mine do when I'm listening to my programmer friends discuss code.


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