Tamarie Cooper not only writes and directs – she dresses her cast, too
"Wild and crazy" is the guiding principle for everything in Tamarie Cooper's annual summer musicals, especially the costumes.
This year's show, "A Very Tamarie Christmas," is no exception. From Gregory Dean's festively embellished duds (he's Christmas personified) to the floppy-eared rabbit suit Noel Bowers sports as a lewdly rapping Easter Bunny, the costumes are as crucial to the outlandish fun as the performers, songs and sketches.
In this sarcastic salute to holidays, no performer is more outlandishly arrayed than star comic Kyle Sturdivant – especially in his memorable turns as a malevolent tree venting his spleen over the neglect of Arbor Day and a humongous turkey presiding over gluttonous Thanksgiving revels.
Cooper – who conceives, directs, choreographs and stars, also serves as costumer – joined by Claire Anderson for the half-dozen or so costumes that require extensive construction.
"I love working on costumes," Cooper says. "I've done it for years, not only for my shows, but others for Catastrophic and Infernal Bridegroom (Catastrophic's previous avatar). I have to confess, though, I'm not a good seamstress. I can't sew a stitch. That's why Claire joined me for the costumes that have to be built."
A few months before a show opens, as the script is taking shape, Cooper starts a Pinterest site for accumulating ideas.
"I like that you can just start a bulletin board of images, Googling different things. I literally Googled "tree costumes" to look at different possible ways of creating what we needed, and Claire sent me images of what she was thinking."
She says this year's show – the 17th – required more costumes than any other in the series.
"We've got 19 people in the cast and each one has at least four costumes. That's a lot of pieces – and I have to approach the whole process on the cheap side."
Many pieces are bought or borrowed, then modified as necessary. "I did a lot of ordering on line, pulling things (from various groups' costume archives). I have to credit Stages, and also Main Street Theater, for their help. A lot of actors in the cast helped with the costumes, too. John Dunn, for instance, created the two box costumes for Christmas presents. He's a great costume builder. "
In getting the most elaborate and eye-catching costumes, Sturdivant also wound up wearing the heaviest and hottest.
"I got some amazing dirty looks from Kyle during costume fittings," Cooper says. "But now, he actually likes them."
As it turns out, costumes were in the forefront of Cooper's consciousness when I spoke with her earlier this week.
"I've been spending the entire day laundering costumes," she said. "I've done eight loads already. It's one of the glamorous roles I fill at Catastrophic: official laundress."