From Bustles to Birdcages

When one is involved in non-professional theatre, one must learn to do a myriad of things. Everyone says I’m sooooo creative, but really I’ve just learned how to think out of the box. In fact, I’m not even sure where the box is anymore.  I love directing, acting and making costumes. Those are my strong suits. I feel comfortable doing those things.

However, during my recent theatre production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I found myself painting the flats for the street scene. I had three flats to decorate. Now I preface my comments here by saying, I am not an artist. I draw designs for my costumes and that’s about it. The need was there, no one else was available, so I took the challenge. One flat already had a small bakery scene so that’s where I started.

Since the play is based on a Dickens novel, I chose to create Miss Havisham’s Bakery. If you recall, Miss Havisham was left at the altar and never recovered. She had been in the process of dressing for her wedding when she found out her groom wasn’t coming, and she literally never changed after that moment. It was so bad that though she had only one shoe on, she never put on the other one! So why would I create a bakery for her?  If your mind works like mine, the answer is simple, her wedding cake was still in the dining hall years later! The description of it is quite delicious, so if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to read all about it in Great Expectations! On my flat of her bakery I painted a cake with a bride on the top…only the bride mind you! And of course, at Miss Havisham’s Bakery all wedding cakes are always half off.


Next, I decided to create a dress shop. I wanted to name it Jenny Wren’s after the doll’s dressmaker in the book Our Mutual Friend, but I knew no one would ever get that association. I chose Little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop because I thought she might have become a good shopkeeper if she hadn’t died so young and…alas, tragically.

In the window of Nell’s, I painted a beautiful gown on a dressform. Now remember I’m not an artist, so I had to find a way to draw a lifesize dress. Enter my friend Andrea! I had her lie down on the flat, so I could sketch around her! Of course I changed her figure a bit to accentuate the bust and the bustle. Image (This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but at least you get the idea! By the way, the actor whose hand is in the picture is a lot closer to the camera than the flat is.)

Lastly, I did a flower shop called Flite’s Fanciful Flowers. Now, Miss Flite is one of my favorite characters in all of Dickens, so even if no one else got the connection, I don’t care! Miss Flite is a crazy bird woman in Bleak House. I guess she’s only slightly mad, but I loved in the movie when they visited her house where she had dozens of birds. In her store window, I painted large flowers and a lovely birdcage with two sweet blue budgies. I also put faces on the sunflowers to give the actors something to discover and laugh about.

I have to say that I’m pretty proud of those sets. I’ve painted sets before but never with the details that these had. It was fun and it expanded my experience. If you’re thinking of taking up a new hobby, think about the theatre because it’s not all acting. There is a lot to be done, and you never know what you might end up doing!


To Blog or Not to Blog that IS the Question!

So this week is opening week of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I’ve been tired all week…too tired to do anything really. I’ve done some usual things this week.

On Monday, I made purple satin pantaloons and did the dishes. At rehearsal that night, I filled in for one of the actresses who thought she’d take it literally and break her leg. It’s not broken thank God because I don’t want her role! (I could do it if I had to, but it’s an opium selling prostitute…like I said, I don’t want the role.)

Tuesday, I got up so as to do something worthwhile only to fall asleep while reading my Bible. I was reading Leviticus so can you blame me? I then slept until almost eleven. I decided that I should wear a wig in the play because my hair is so short, so I spent the afternoon styling one. When Kreg got home he remarked how there was a body-less woman on the front porch…I had forgotten that I stuck the wig head on the broom so the wig could dry in the sun. Imagine if I had had guests!

Wednesday I finished Leviticus…do you know how many silver trays were given for the Tabernacle? (12) Dry book that one! Though Numbers which I started isn’t much better…do you know how many men twenty year old or older who were able to serve in the army who were from the tribe of Dan? (62,700) I made the bed because Kreg says it makes him feel loved when I do. It seems like a such a strange thing to make someone feel he’s loved. I should do it everyday since I love him everyday, but then it might become less special to him. At least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t make the bed! I also went out and raked some leaves. I broke the rake, so now I don’t have to rake the leaves anymore! Before rehearsal I worked some more on the set. I’m decorating Cloisterham High Street. So far, I’ve created Nell’s dress and hat shop and Miss Havisham’s bakery (wedding cakes are half off!). Miss Flite’s Fanciful Flowers is almost done with a large vase that looks like a pineapple with sunflowers growing out of it. I still need to paint a birdcage in her store front. Yes, Cloisterham is an interesting village having no fewer than three shops owned by characters from other Dickens’ novels.  They live there because I want them to not because they really do!  (By the way, if you’ve never read The Olde Curiosity Shop, Great Expectations or Bleak House, let me encourage you to do so. They’re marvelous!)

It’s Thursday now, and I’ve been to Berlin, Montpelier and Barre.  If you were here, I would have taken you to a fabulous consignment shop in Montpelier where I wanted to buy a coat.  Not just any coat but a shin-length fake ocelot fur coat! It looked amazing on me, and were I made of money it would now be mine!  I could just hear Kreg’s voice inside my head, “Yvonne, really?!” In Berlin, I would have taken you to see my rheumatologist where I was told that I’d lost 24 pounds in the last year…it’s really 30, because I started before I saw this doctor for the first time. But whose counting? In Barre, we would have gotten into a traffic jam before finding a delightful thrift store.

So back to the question, “To blog or not to blog?” Am I too tired to think of anything to write? Apparently not. Did anything happen that was noteworthy? Not really. But isn’t that what life is all about? Would we really want  a life of adventure and unexpected events? I doubt it.  The man changing is tire on the side of the road is a good example of why not. How lovely to have a quiet week!  OH wait!  Opening night is tomorrow! Sigh, somehow I don’t think my life is all that quiet.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 96:9