Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Helping "Into the Woods" into their clothes

We would be a cast of bedraggled actors on Barksdale's stage if it wasn't for one special woman keeping us together during every performance of Into the Woods. That person is Renee Jones and she is the Dresser/Quickfixer/Magician, and every actors' best friend behind the scenes. Ever wonder how an actor can somehow magically appear three lines of dialogue later entering on the other side of the stage in a completely different costume head to toe and no sweat? .... No we do not conjure up magical fairy dust .... it has a name and that name is Renee Jones.

To explain more about the phenom that is Renee, we must understand where she comes from and what brought her to us here at Barksdale Theatre. She lives in the house she was born in right here in Richmond. Renee is a graduate of the dance program at Henrico High School's Center for the Performing Arts which, coincidentally is where Into the Woods director Robin Arthur was the school's first Head Director. Renee is also a graduate of UNC Wilmington. You may recognize the campus from Dawson's Creek episodes, as it was used as the set for the High School in the series. Her first professional production in Richmond was Theatre IV's Charlotte's Web at the Empire Theatre followed by Proof at Barksdale Theatre. Following other local shows she headed off to HersheyPark in PA to hone her skills even more. Recent credits since her return to Richmond include Mame, Intimate Apparel, and Beehive. On the right is a picture of Renee making sure everything is perfect on Adanma Onyedike's costume during Intimate Apparel.

It takes a person with a strong constitution to see and do the things Renee does. We're talking actors sweating buckets everywhere and people literally falling out of costumes. This woman has seen it all. Each costume change is like a choreographed dance between Renee and each actor. As you can imagine each actor has a different "modus operandi" so she has to accomodate each one. Although I do enjoy my time with Renee, I am lucky enough to have only one real costume change....of course this change is from a carniverous wolf in full make-up exiting stage left, and coming in 1/2 a page later as a dashing (sweat-free) prince entering stage right (see photo on the left). Not only does she keep us dressed, she also keeps us in good repair. The costume designers and staff do a superb job at assembling all our phenomonal costumes, but as you can imagine falls, tears, weight loss....or gain, and missing buttons happen. Renee can be seen post-show, intermission, and at many times doing upkeep on our costumes. She is a huge asset to this summer's production of Into the Woods, she is truly a star.

-Russell Rowland

* Firsthand account by Amy Hruska, one of Renee's "Dance Partners":
"After I walk onstage as "Sleeping Beauty", I have 3 lines and then appear again as "Granny". Renee has my "Granny" wig sitting atop her head and as she is velcroing me in, I snatch the wig off of her and place it on my head. A pair of glasses completes the ensemble. Remember all is done in 3 quick tempo lines. Renee stays calm through all of this and gets me back onstage on time every time."

** Sidenote: We also have a "Set" Dresser, in a way. His name is Ronnie, and among his other jobs is fitting Amy Hruska two times a show, in and out of a 9'-10' tree "costume" , moving branches and all.
*** Personally I miss my appearance as a large piece of white celery (Prize to the first person,vegetable , or mineral who can guess the show)
Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV employees void.

Anyone else like to share their strangest or most outrageous costume?


Stacy said...


Robinitaface said...

You were the best human-size PIECE OF WHITE CELERY (cue the music?) I've ever seen.


Russell Rowland said...

Ding, Ding, Ding. We have a winner. Stacy you are correct and I see a beautiful Theatre IV T-shirt in your future. Email me with your contact info and you will be seen sporting this seasons must have fashion.

rosie said...

Hey, are those shirts available for sale?

Russell Rowland said...

Why yes they are. I believe the going rate is a crisp 10 dollar bill...or 2 fivers, whichever you prefer. They are for sale at the Empire Theatre box office at 114 W Broad St. 9-5.
Phone (804) 344-8040

Frank Creasy said...

Is there an extra charge if the shirts were previously worn by Russell Rowland? If so, HOW MUCH???