March 22, 2016

COPA Presents: The Bluest Eye

"PECOLA:  My eyes...I want them blue.  I want them blue so people won't turn away from me when I walk down the street.  So I can go to school.  So my stomach stop growing and my baby be strong.  I want them blue so my mama love me and I have friends and they think I'm pretty.  I want them blue so people don't do ugly things in front of me and I stop being invisible." 
~ The Bluest Eye, adapted by Lydia Diamond
from Toni Morrison's 1970 novel

A whole week ago now - time sure is flying by - my first experience of college theatre, The Bluest Eye, produced by Point Park's Conservatory of Performing Arts, came to an end after a two-week, 10 show run.  Playing from February 25th through the 28th and March 10th through the 13th in the Rauh Theater at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, it was such a memorable show.  Each performance began with roaring laughter, and by the end, complete silence.  Many reduced to tears, and everyone changed.

About the Play

Pecola Breedlove's story is not a happy one.  Rather, it is startling and uncomfortable.  Pecola's world is intolerant, impoverished, unsympathetic, and unloving.  Except for her two classmates, Claudia and Frieda Macteer, with whom she bonds over a love for Mary Jane penny candies, jump rope, and Shirley Temple, eleven-year-old Pecola is alone.  Alone in the face of great social injustice and racism, alone to face the horrors of rape and incest, and a victim of poverty and scapegoat to pin society's ugliness upon.  Through following Pecola's riveting, heart-wrenching, two-hour journey into madness, we, as the audience, are called to reflect upon our own distorted perceptions of the beautiful and the ugly in our society.

"PECOLA: My eyes...I want them blue so people
don't do ugly things in front of me and I stop being invisible."
Source: Point Park University

Lydia Diamond's adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel is unforgettable.  Here's what Emily Bennett had to say on March 8th in her review for The Globe:
"The production, which takes place in post-depression Lorain, Ohio follows the story of the young and unendingly sad Pecola, played by junior acting major Toree Alexandre, who longs for the blue eyes and blonde hair of a white girl.  The show allows audiences to have a glimpse at the world through Pecola’s perspective and experience her personal journey in an attempt to relate to the human vulnerabilities we all share. 
"'I love the eloquence and poetic nature of Toni Morrison’s words,' Alexandre said in a phone interview Sunday.  'It is a stark example of the ramifications of white oppression.  Pecola’s desperate desire to have the blue eyes of a white person…it’s such a tragic story.'" 
~ Excerpt from Emily Bennett's article: 

About the Players
"PECOLA:  Are my eyes really very nice.
VOICE:  Yes.  Very nice.
PECOLA:  Just 'very nice?'
VOICE:  Really, truly very nice?
PECOLA:  Really, truly, bluely nice?  The truly bluest eye?"
~ Excerpt from The Bluest Eye by Lydia Diamond 

 TorĂ©e Alexandre as Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye.
Photograph source: Point Park University

One of the neatest privileges of having the opportunity to be on the wardrobe crew (my production assignment) for The Bluest Eye was getting to work with so many theatre professionals.  For instance, the director was Monica Payne, a freelance director and founder of Theatre Lumina; the scenic designer was Steffi Mayer-Staley; the lighting designer was Cat Wilson; the sound designer was Steve Shapiro; the fight choreographer was Samuel G.C. Munoz; and the stage manager was Daisy Wolford.  I worked mostly with the fabulous costume designer, Cathleen Crocker-Perry, and the assistant costume designer and wardrobe supervisor, Terra Skirtich.

At the same time, some of Point Park's finest actors were cast.  These include Toree Alexandre as Pecola Breedlove, Kendall Claxton as Claudia MacTeer, Saige Smith as Frieda MacTeer, Amer Jones as Pauline Breedlove, and Perris Drew as Cholly Breedlove, among others.

About the Set

The flowers looked magical under the stage lighting!
Photograph by Point Park University.
Source: The Globe

The fantastic set was designed by Stepanie Mayer-Staley.  Though the set itself may appear simple, the details of each piece were carefully designed and built.  In fact, the entire back wall was plastered, painted, and fitted with a carved foam addition to achieve that crumbling, 3D textured appearance.  A raised and tilted platform transported the audience closer into the heart and soul of Pecola's story.

Amazingly, both the flowers and the house were made from paper!

About the Costumes

Cathleen Crocker-Perry, the head draper and cutter of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, was the costume designer.   Though there were only a few costume pieces, her vision, with its soft, earthly palette, befit each character perfectly and breathed life and color into a dark production.  

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to work on alterations for several of the dresses.  In the picture below, all three of the dresses that I stitched on appear: 

Photograph source: Point Park University

Swatches from the two blue dresses that I altered: 

Cathleen also designed and built two of the most adorable 1940s dresses for the Macteer sisters:

Photograph source: Point Park University

Here is a swatch from the dress that I stitched on:  After setting in the side pocket, sleeves, and hem, we had a dress!

This pretty, peach-colored print became the cutest 1940s dress
with light blue ric-rac and matching buttons!

Final Words

Without doubt, The Bluest Eye is truly an unforgettable, haunting play that resonates with audiences well after the show's end.  And, it was such an honor and privilege to serve on the wardrobe crew for such a production.  Many thanks to the talented professionals, cast and fellow crew members.  

"CLAUDIA: And so is the how and the edges of the why of it.  A little black girl yearns for the blue eyes of a little white girl, and horror of the heart of her yearning is exceeded only by the evil of fulfillment.  A little black girl steps over into madness, a madness which protected her from us, simply because in the end it bored us.

"I talk about how I did not plant the seeds too deeply, how it was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town.  I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year.  This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers.  Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own violation, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live.  We are wrong, of course, but it doesn't matter.  It's too late.  At least on the edge of my town, among the garbage and the sunflowers of my town, it's much, much, much too late"
~ The Bluest Eye, adapted by Lydia Diamond
Novel by Toni Morrison

March 20, 2016

A Quick, Correct Cap

"Fashion is a kind of communication.  
It's a language without words.  
A great hat speaks for itself"  
~ Author Unknown 

The title says it all:  I made a new early-19th century, linen round eared cap to replace the cotton one that I loved so much last season, until it wore out!

Entirely hand stitched with tiny rolled hems and whipped rolled gathers.  Pattern of my own making.  

Inside of cap.

Here's an earlier extant dated from c.1751 to 1800 from the Belgian Art Links and Tools database that I am quite fond of: 

Cap, c.1751-1800
Belgian Art Links and Tools Database
(Image via: Source)

And another side view of mine:

More detail shots: 

Drawn thread worked ruffles.

Whipped rolled gathers from the outside.

Whipped rolled gathers on the inside.

You may notice that there is only one layer of fabric in each section, which is the proper period method of construction.

The gathers must be placed tighter together to fit smoothly around curves!

And, just for fun, here are some pictures of the 1860s working class outfit I threw together using pieces from my 1830s and 1850s wardrobes:  First worn for photographs (yes, I received plenty of odd stares from the short city walk and fellow college classmates...) and to a sewing day at Fort Pitt, where I've had the great pleasure of spending a few weekends.  Thank goodness for friends who encourage your dress up habits!

The hair.  I've been playing around with 1860s styles!
Now all I need to find is a nice, large, decorative hair comb...

Posing with the stylish curtains in the Lawrence Hall Ballroom.
Photographs courtesy of Lauren Wijangco. 

March 7, 2016

It's Been a Long Time

It's been a long time.

I've gone away to college.  Met a lot of new people, and missed those at home.

Kept busy sewing through both my costume shop apprenticeship at the Pittsburgh Playhouse & with new friends at the Fort Pitt Museum.  

Point State Park is home to both the Fort Pitt Museum & the Fort Pitt Block House, which is the last and oldest surviving structure of the original fort.  

The tip of Pittsburgh's "Golden Triangle" is marked exactly where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow into the Ohio River.

I even had the chance to tag along with the 63rd PA to the Beaver County Maple Sugar Festival!  

Civilian set up at the Beaver Country Maple Sugar Fest.

Not to mention, assisted on the wardrobe crew for my first college production.

The bold pattern of my current production assignment!

And fallen in love with the pretty city of Pittsburgh!

The Smithfield Street Bridge, completed in 1883, is Pittsburgh's oldest surviving river bridge.

With a total of 446 bridges, Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world, including Venice, Italy!

Day or night, the view is spectacular!  Living on the 21st floor, I take a few minutes every day to admire the river view.  

So, if the updates around here continue to be scarce, please be understanding and patient.  I will have plenty of pictures to show and stories to tell, eventually.  I've done a bit of growing up, and I now understand a little more certainly what I want and what I don't want in my future.  And, yes, historical sewing is a large part of the future that I envision!

In the mean time, to keep up with the changing times, I have an announcement to make:  The Young Sewphsiticate is now on Facebook!  There you will find more day-to-day sewing updates, sneak peaks at projects and other exclusive content that you won't find here.

I was convinced!  For quite some time now, I had been debating over starting a Facebook page for this blog, as many of my favorite and fellow costume bloggers have done.  Following some relatively recent success on Facebook and with the wholehearted encouragement of a good friend, I finally dove in.

If you're interested in staying in the loop, please check out the new Facebook companion to The Young Sewphisticate and consider "liking" & "sharing" to keep me sewing!  (You can also access and "like" it on the new side banner.)  Thank you, as always, for your support!

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