A stitch in time: Joffrey Ballet costume crew stands ready to fix any rips in ‘The Nutcracker’
Stefano Eposito, Chicago Sun-Times
From repairing torn pants to stopping the walnuts from bumping into each other on stage, the work of Joffrey Ballet’s sewing team goes on long after the show starts.
The crotch in your pants tears open — wide.
You’re not at home or in a bathroom stall at work. You’re on stage in front of an audience of thousands, including lots of children — a few of whom have started snickering.
In the darkness of the wings, a tiny light, a beacon of hope. You leap off into the shadows, and within seconds — literally, because you have to be back on stage again almost instantaneously — a woman in black, wearing a headlamp, produces a needle and thread and she sews you up.
It ain’t pretty, but it will do until the next costume change.
“I’ve had to fix that at least twice — once was the first show I ran for the Joffrey,” explained Jerica Hucke, the draper for Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, of said costume incident.
It turns out, the costume folks at the Joffrey thrive on such drama, but they’d just rather you didn’t see it.
“It’s kind of fun. The adrenaline of it — that’s why we do live theater,” said Ellie Cotey, the costume manager at Joffrey.
In the Joffrey’s costume shop at 10 E. Randolph, it’s a “super, super busy time,” says Cotey, adding some finishing touches to the bodice of the sugar plum fairy costume on a recent afternoon. Joffrey’s annual “Nutcracker” — the company show that sells the most tickets each year (in part because it has the longest run of any of its presentations) — opens Dec. 2 at the Lyric Opera House.
If it’s a chaotic time, it’s a controlled chaos. Three stitchers sit near a large window, working mostly in silence as they apply finishing touches to various costumes. Cotey’s team of six, including herself, has a combined 120 years of experience in the trade.
Beside the stitchers is a wall of thread spools, colors so bright they’d make a rainbow jealous. Another wall is lined with plastic tubs with all sorts of labels: “Fur,” “horse hair,” “pearls,” “gold metallic trim” and something called “braid and gimp.”
There are about 260 costumes in total for “The Nutcracker,” most of them on hangers on racks, waiting to be packed into road boxes that will be loaded into a truck and taken to the Lyric.
Cotey stands at a cutting table arranging the gold leaves on the sugar plum fairy costume. The piece is intended to glitter and dazzle beneath the stage lights, but not so the audience will say, “Oh that’s a different costume from last year.”
Read the full article here.
The Nutcracker runs December 2-27 at the Lyric Opera House. Purchase tickets here.