Formerly published in The Other Press. Mar. 26 2013
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
Being a costume head for a theatre production might sound like a girl’s dream job: a full-time gig shopping and dressing beautiful actors. But Courtney Schroeder knows that a day out looking for shoes, cardigans, and tops could be absolutely strenuous.
“I felt like it was all on me to find these items,” she said. “If I don’t find it I feel horrible, as if I’m letting the designer down.” Having an opportunity to work with professional production designer, Charlotte Burke, was a great privilege and the idea of disappointing her almost brought Schroeder to tears. “I found one of the three,” she brightened up, “shoes. I was so happy.”
“It sounded easy,” she smiled, admitting what she first thought of stagecraft in Grade 10. “At least that was what I heard.” Ever since assisting stage-management in a high school performance of Grease, she grew attached to the work behind the scenes. InBlue Window, Schroeder was in charge of the cast’s modern attire. But she aims to challenge herself in the future: “I really like Once Upon a Time,” her face lights up. “It goes from modern to fairytale. To work on a show with such different costumes and sets… it’ll be so much fun.”
Schroeder is driven by enjoyment, but there are moments where costume design is not as easy as her grade 10 self would have hoped. “Everything has to be ready,” she states as if some holy testament. “You make sure everything is ready.” God forbid anything rips. “Hopefully that won’t happen.” The key to producing quality work in the department is being time efficient, and Schroeder knows that if she doesn’t meet her deadlines, the actors might not be naked, but the show will lose a lot of substance.
When show time approaches and everything is prepared, she will go into damage control. Sometimes the job can be as simple as doing laundry. Other times it can be replacing buttons and stitching up seams. The preparation requires her to arrive hours before the show starts, especially if a piece of clothing requires hang drying.
Before being enrolled in the stagecraft and event program at Douglas, she had little idea of all the live performances taking place in the city. Now, she makes attending shows a routine, always being aware of the costume choices on stage. Schroeder understands that it takes a certain amount of discipline to create and find costumes. She offers some advice from her own personal experience, “Don’t freak out.” Following instructions and keeping calm are not the only things that help you make beautiful costumes, but it’ll help you look good while doing it.