A few weeks ago Decadent Housewife received a distress signal from Helen. Help was needed in a soon to open Wizard of Oz production. I arrived with Helen to find a nice big room filled with all the fixings of costume design and production; sergers, sewing machines, irons, pins, glue, paint, mounds and mounds and mounds of fabric, but only one lonely Lion painting his comrade, The Scarecrow's straw hat.
"So what needs to be done?" we asked the person in charge and after her rundown, were thoroughly amazed at her calm. I would have been in the bathroom throwing up. After learning how much yet needed to be done, with less than 48 hours to showtime, we also learned that she had indeed been doing just that...that very morning...throwing up.
"So tell us what to do," I said, brightly. "We have Glinda here...she needs to have adjustments in the bodice and in the sleeve and we need some overskirts added and some more overskirts. And she's tall, so we need to add some length and have you ever done fishline hems? Oh good, because I've never done them.
And then I have the Wicked Witch to finish. The original witch had to withdraw and we've had to remake her outfit...different witch altogether...different height...weight...everything. And then I still have the Lion to finish." I reconsidered my first assessment about throwing up. It's too late for throwing up...I'd have been done with that step weeks earlier.
"Oh and the poppies, we need to do the poppies and the snowflakes and..." I leaned forward to Helen, "I'll never say yes to you again." But she smiled, because she knows me better. I was a free agent and felt unpressured and therefore relaxed enough to help someone in a sinking ship. I know how it feels to be drowning in yards of uncut, unhemmed, unglued, unfitted organza or chiffon or lion fur. Really bad. Really, really, really bad.
So Helen left me with Glinda and waded into the poppies. And we listened to Jose Carreras and Rod Stewart singing "Gasoline Alley"...not together. It felt like high school home-ec class. This time I wasn't sewing in some freezing portable in the parking lot with a teacher overlooking every stitch and telling me I could sew no further than her schedule. We were now sewing like crazies in a nice building, since built over the very spot where that freezing portable classroom stood back in 1970 something. And we were further crazied when someone left the windows open and the room became inundated with flies and I remarked, "I feel like I'm in a bad novel." I'll add now..."in more ways than one."
So I dashed in and sewed and then ran home and picked up GG and ran and had lunch with GG and his parents and ran home again and fixed supper for Buff and his friends. And like laundry, I kept coming back. By this time more people who sew had been found and were sewing all around. The speaker to the dressing/sewing room crackled from the auditorium...a skill saw and hammering and Toto amiably barking.
And it was discovered that someone had eaten a plate of prop cookies, half of which had been glued down and little voices began to arrive asking for their poppy heads and other parts yet to be made.
And a little Munchkin in a very bright, very stiff tutu attached herself to my elbow...it was the Glinda dress I'm sure, that cast it's spell...it surely wasn't me.
A crow demanded a hoola-hoop. But I declared I'd missed hoola-hoops the first time around and couldn't help him now either. And some monkeys made their appearance.
And the morning of opening night I noticed a pile of uncut fur laying on the floor of the servery. "What's that?" "The Lion."
Around 5:00 opening night, a skill saw still whining from the auditorium, I finished...rather what I thought was finished, Glinda.
What else do you need? Well, these stars go on Glinda and these sparkly hearts and... Done. What else do you need? Well, the Wicked Witch needs adjusting and new sleeves and the bodice is all ripped out and... Done.
Between Glinda and the Wicked Witch two little Munchkins appeared all worried because their hats would not stay on. "Whatever will we DO?" they cried. So I found some self-adhesive velcro and stuck it inside the crowns of their hats and declared, "If it's good enough for the Queen of England, it's good enough for us." And they and their mothers were about as amazed as I at how for once some useless bit of information picked up over the years actually was useful and in a pinch too! And one of the Munchkins was so thrilled she did this.
What else do you need? Well, there are the crow's toes. Really. I kid you not. Here they are.
I sat sewing and stuffing Crow's Toes all through the first act of opening night. And when I noticed a Crow wander through the change/sewing room, eating a Mars Bar looking very, very relaxed, I figured by then it was too late.
Another two people came to the rescue of the Crow's Toes because frankly, by then I had a dilly of a headache and could no longer think. "We'll work on them tomorrow," someone said. But I wasn't coming back tomorrow. During intermission, I wandered back to the women's dressing room to find Glinda. I still hadn't seen her in her dress.
While crossing the orchestra pit, Helen, the one who got me into this eleventh hour sewing H-E-Double Hockey Sticks, exclaimed, "Are you still here?!" I pointed out to her that while she had been tickling ivories, I had been ramping a Bernina through Crow's Toes the entire first act. The toes were not done and I was not going to know how they ever turned out since I was leaving for Toronto the very next day and not coming back for a very, very long time. I made my way to find Glinda, the pink witch thrilled with her dress and very regal and pink looking.
I left the very next day for Toronto and never looked back...until now, to report all this.
(All costume design by Julia Burgess.)
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