By Ally Thomas
Hello! Ally Thomas here, this year I had the opportunity to costume design American Stage’s school tour production! If you aren’t familiar with the annual school tour, it’s the longest running and widest reaching program in the company’s 40+ year history. American Stage partners with Pinellas County to bring a play adaptation of a children’s literature classic to schools throughout St. Pete, and we also make a special trip to Tampa Theatre so that Hillsborough County students get to experience the show as well. This year’s production is WINNIE THE POOH, and as soon as the title was announced, many people shared their excitement about this fun and nostalgic piece.
Early on in the process, director Tiffany Ford and I discussed the look and feel that we wanted the show to have. We decided that the costumes should suggest the hand crafted nature of these well-loved stuffed animals. Throughout the designs I incorporated buttons, patches and large visible stitches. Most of the hand built head pieces are made with some element of felt. There are 5 actors playing 8 characters, so one of the challenges was finding ways for some clothing pieces to make sense in the world of multiple characters and to provide a smooth transition for actors to switch from one character to the next. This included “rigging” certain garments with Velcro so that they could come on and off quickly, and making pieces easy to layer on top of one another. There were other factors that informed my design beyond just aesthetics. Because I’ve previously worked on school tour for the last two years as an actor and tour manager, I was aware of the inevitable wear and tear that happens on the road. I planned for the type of durability needed to maintain these costumes over a 2 month run with over 50 performances.
This project was so much fun to work on and I loved working with the cast and creative team! There are 3 different “generations” of current and former apprentices working on school tour this year, and lots of times the process felt like a big family reunion. I’ve been grateful to have American Stage as my creative home since my own apprenticeship in 16/17. Tiffany, along with Stephanie Gularte and many others have encouraged me and provided me with opportunities as a young professional. For that, I’m so grateful! To continue working on school tour is especially rewarding, as my experience with that program taught me so much about being an artist.
I hope everyone can come join us for the family friendly show when we present WINNIE THE POOH at American Stage on December 15 & December 23 at 11am!
For more information about how to help bring school tour to a school near you, visit http://americanstage.org/in-school-performances/.