Cleaning Memory Lane

And now, a little rambling about cleaning my room:

After battling a serious cold this past week with Sudafed – the kind that you have to show your ID at the pharmacy to get – I’ve wound up kind of wired this weekend. I blame the remnants of the pseudoephedrine in my system, and the fact that I somehow managed to sleep for just over 12 hours on Friday night/Saturday morning-to-afternoon.

Normally, I would try to harness this energy into sewing and costuming and the like. Afterall, the beginning of con season is upon us. The first con of my season will be Farpoint, in February. I want to try to make something new for the con, but I’m still not quite sure what that would be. I should probably get started on it soon, though, if I’m to have any hopes of having something completed before the actual day of the convention.

Today, however, I spent most of my time cleaning my room. There were a lot of cobwebs to contend with…I’ve been remiss on my dusting and, when one lives in a basement, that’s not a good thing to get behind on. You know that quote from It, where Pennywise is talking about the sewers? – “Everything floats down here.” Well, that’s kind of the same thing. In It, everything winds up in the sewers. In my house, everything winds up in the basement.

In the process of clearing out some of the flotsam of a busy life, I unearthed a couple of interesting finds. Well, interesting to me, at least. One such find was a binder with the script and blocking notes from a one-act show I directed back in high school. There’s a name for what the book is supposed to be called in theatre terms, but I can’t remember it at the moment.

I had a nice little moment of nostalgia as I leafed through it. I had actually been thinking about that very show just the other day. More than anything else, I loved doing the casting for shows. I tended to make choices that people questioned and worried about in the beginning of a show. In that particular case, I gave the lead role to a guy in the class who came across as rather quiet. His part in most of the shows our class performed typically consisted of two or three lines. During the audition for this show, though, I saw something I really liked, and I made sure I got him for my cast. I remember people shooting me looks that clearly said “Are you crazy?”

Normally, I’d say “Why, yes. Yes I am.” In that particular case, though, I knew he’d do well. He was actually just as surprised as everyone else when he found out he got the lead in my cast.

And you know what?

He was awesome. Absolutely stellar. 

Another item I uncovered was a binder full of pictures from a show I did back when I was in 8th grade. It was the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd.” Yes, that’s the actual title. No, I didn’t get the words in the wrong order. Quite honestly, it’s the weirdest show I’ve ever been a part of. And, when I say that, keep in mind that I was in my fair share of 19th century farce plays, and I’m working on writing an absurdist piece with a friend of mine.

Tucked into an old cardboard box was a third binder. This one held my very first attempts at costume design.

I’m tempted to burn the binder. The designs are just that bad. I don’t even know what kind of show I was trying to design for. And before you ask, no, I’m not going to post pictures of these atrocious things. No one should be forced to look at them.

I finally found the VHS tapes of all the high school musical productions I was in. I am so tempted to pop them into the vcr upstairs to watch them. I think I’m going to talk to a friend of mine who’s in film school, to see if he can maybe transfer them from VHS form into a more stable digital format. I’d kind of like to have dvd versions of them.

I also pulled out an award Ma’am, my old theatre teacher, gave me at the Thespians end-of-the-year party the year I graduated high school. It’s a little blue-and-yellow jester doll. (For those of you not “in the know,” the cords that honor Thespians wear at graduation are blue and yellow) I got the award for all my work in the costume storage room over the course of four long years. My memories of that room fluctuate between fond and terror-inducing, but the little jester is a nice reminder of one thing…costumes have been a part of my life for a long time.

The first costume I remember working on in high school was the Fairy Godmother dress for a production of Cinderella. Silver lame, puffy sleeves, and a string of silver plastic beads shaped like stars as trim. The thing looked incredibly tacky up close but, on stage, it was beautiful.

I’ve come quite a long way from those first stabs at costumes. I remember forgetting to put the extension on the bottom of the pattern piece before I cut the fabric once. It was at least six inches too short, and I had to quickly come up with a way of disguising the fact that I had messed up big time on the costume. I ended up sewing on an extension, hiding the seam with a nice ribbon. No one could tell I had screwed up big time.

Damage control was one of the first things I learned when I started making costumes – mainly because I was having to hide my own mistakes. Over the years, those early lessons learned in a high school costume shop came to be one of my favorite – and useful – skills.

A couple of years ago, I went back to my old high school and volunteered my free time to the costume department. Ma’am handed me a pile of dresses that needed to be finished. One of the dresses, she told me, needed some creative thinking. It seems the young student who had cut out the pattern had cut the fabric too short. I smiled, unsure of whether Ma’am remembered me doing the very same thing when I was a freshman. There ended up being several things I needed to fix on that particular dress. Luckily, I’d had my share of costume mishaps by that point, and the solutions came pretty easily.

I ended up throwing out a number of the smaller pieces of memorabilia (and junk) that I found from my old high school days, but I did hold on to some of them. Tangible pieces of my past, and all that. It’s comforting to know that, amidst the multitude of changes I face in my life, there is one thing that has remained constant since I was 14…

…my love of costumes.


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