The show must go on

This photo was shot on film backstage at one of my first theatre gigs, circa 2002. Being the only one working wardrobe during the Shim Sham Revue taught me so many skills that would serve me throughout my career in live entertainment. The dressing room was the size of a closet and had to fit all six of our talented burlesque dancers, a dashing MC, the larger than life house comedienne, and whomever our featured guest happened to be that evening. The drummer for our live band was backed up right against the curtain where the girls were getting ready, and it wasn’t unusual for there to be a few unfortunate interactions. All of the quick changes were intense and included wigs as well as makeup application, much of which was thick concealer to hide tattoos that would inevitably come off along with the various stripped off costume pieces. The time in between shows was brief and I was often left with only moments to spare before second show’s opening curtain. Suffice it to say, I loved every minute of it.
When I arrived in Vegas and began working large scale productions, I was amazed by how easy the show tracks were in comparison. My time in that old New Orleans venue challenged me in so many ways and the lessons I learned have served me well throughout the years. The current situation sees countless performers, vendors, and backstage crew missing the call of the stage as we watch our industry be decimated. Many of us are feeling a bit lost right now, but doing everything we can to preserve our craft. The future is uncertain, but be sure of one thing – we can’t wait to entertain you again ❤️

Just your average American family?

I have been focusing so much on aerial and flexibility training over the past couple of years that I have had very little time to work on projects. I knew this would be the case when I closed the Poison Candy shop, however I expected that I would have managed to crank out at least a few masterpieces by now. I have declined pretty much every freelance offer in favor of swinging from the rafters, however I recently signed on for a fun costuming gig.

My friend Christopher Brown is a brilliant actor and an equally talented director. Chris introduced me to the play “HIR” by Taylor Mac over the summer and I instantly fell in love with the script. When Christopher mentioned that he would be directing the play for Cockroach Theatre, I was thrilled to come aboard as the costume designer.

Valerie Carpenter Bernstein and Tim Cummins photographed by Richard Brusky.

Good art is subjective and “HIR” is no exception. I imagine that most people who see the play walk away with a very unique perspective. Mac embraces the concept of “absurd realism”, and “HIR” is no exception. The story is an American comedic tragedy featuring a middle class family trying to navigate the ever changing culture and attempting to establish their place within it. Each character has embarked on a person journey, causing various types of clashes and sometimes disturbing revelations. “HIR” is one of those stories that tricks you into laughing only to leave you feeling like you have been emotionally dropkicked by the time it has concluded. I could theorize about the complex artistry of the production all day, however I will leave you with this great review which does a stellar job of describing the overall narrative.

The script did mention a “massive beauty pageant wig”. This is the result of two combined wigs, 14 ounces of hairspray, and approximately 3 hours of styling.

Most of the smaller shows that I have worked on have centered around glamorous performers flaunting their various attributes. It was a wonderful challenge to take on a production where my characters were more typical in some ways and completely over the top in others. I was also tasked with providing wigs which gave me an opportunity to shake the dust off of my teasing brush and drown myself in hairspray. I had a blast reacquainting myself with glamour makeup and learning how to create a believable, simple false beard. My new friend Stephanie knows every makeup trick in the book and was quick to share her extensive knowledge.

I finally had a chance to watch the show a few nights ago and I am very pleased overall. It was wonderful to sit in the audience and witness their honest reactions. The performers brought their best and I thoroughly enjoyed how Taylor Mac’s characters came alive. Much like my beloved “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, I plan to see “HIR” performed by as many theatre companies as possible.

“I believe whole-heartedly in craft. I believe craft is essentially a commitment to learning the past, living in the present, and dreaming the culture forward.”  ~Taylor Mac

Brenna Folger and Levi Fackrell photographed by Richard Brusky.