Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My waiting for Guffman moment circa 2000

Once upon a time, during the summer of 2000, I joined a group of artisans headed to a little town called Leavenworth, Washington. Our mission, and my paying gig, was to assist in costuming a cast of over 250 locals, in 5 days, for a single theatrical performance called "Icicle Times" that spanned the history of the area from early Native American beliefs to modern day. Basically you could superimpose the plot of "Waiting for Guffman" onto this experience and it wouldn't look all that different. "Red White and Blaine" and "Icicle Times" both made me chuckle and feel embarrrassed for the people on stage with equal amounts of gusto.

A little Backgound: Leavenworth is a small town located in the Eastern slopes of the cascade mountain range in Washington State. If I remember correctly it took us about 4 hours to get up there in my dad's Bronco II. The town had been slipping in tourism so they had a twon meeting and decided adding a theme to the town just might work. The town was reborn in the 1960s into a Bavarian Village theme, very much like a small German village you might find in your European travels. "The authenticity has attracted many people of direct German, Austrian and Norwegian descent who have made Leavenworth Washington their new home and livelihood." -According to the chamber of commerce. Really? I guess I did eat a sausage or two while I was there...so that must be true!



One-Reel was the group putting on this gigantic project, commisioned by Harriet Bullitt. (Sidenote: it was rumored that Harriet, longtime resident of Leavenworth and co-owner of King broadcasting in the Northwest, commissioned the piece to perhaps get a better local public image after it was found that her family's logging investment was one of the prime causes of the devestating fires in 1994 that nearly wiped out the town. But you didn't hear that from me....like I said...just a rumor...wink) Anywho, the production was intended to bring the town together by creating a theatrical history of the town, that could be done every few years and would incorporate as many townspeople as possible. Me and my friends Jen and Carrissa were all brought on by Ron the designer to assist him in pulling things, sewing hems, making special outfits like the cookoo bird costume for the giant clock scene....I'm not kidding...



The costumes varied through every period within the last 100 years and also included costumes like a "School of Salmon" and more.... We worked in the basement of the local church that sat across the street from where the tent was set up. The preacher's wife lived two dorrs down and just kept coming in and bringing us treats. Eventually that graduated to bringing us treats and trying on clothes like a little girl playing dress up. Then one day that dress up included a red feather boa....and then it was clear.... she HAD to play one of the prostitutes in the wild west scene! She seemed cautious, but she got the roll no prob and her hubby almost lost it when he saw her up there. He laughed it all off, but you know that night they had some serious fun a few doors down!



Peg Phillips from "Northern Exposure" fame was the narrator in the show. It was pretty cool having a tv personality in the show, I was impressed....and she really was the nicest lady on earth. She didn't even care if we expected her to go out there wearing nothing but a pasty, she trusted us. Sadly she died two years after this event, but you can always see her as Ruth in "Northern Exposure" now that dvds of television shows are so popular.



Here's the Salmon "Teacher" costume I ddesigned and built for the "School of salmon" scene. This woman drove me nuts. She was a local middle school teacher that was such a diva. She kept asking if it would be possible to just paint her face like a fish so she didn't have to "wear a costume." I kindly explained that the kids were wearing fish on their heads as the "Students" and if she wanted to comman some presence in a tent filled with 1000 people that this was the best way to do it. It took the director "schooling" her to get her to shut up and wear the damn thing. (I always liked the book in its mouth that flapped up and down when she walked.)



Um...I think we all know what I'm really taking a picture of here, but this was the local sherriff that played the sherriff in the wild west scene. I was his dresser and as a thank you, he gave me a really cool cowboy hat of his. ahhh swoon...his wife is one lucky gal.



I just loved this pic I got of one of the "Bavarian townspeople" heading into the port o potties in such a beautiful serene countryside. You can even see the church we worked in across the street.



Us playing with the costume accessories for the train sequence. (God I look so young...)



Me and Jen comparing the pregnancy bellies we had made that afternoon.



Pieces of the cukoo bird head used as falsies....you get the gist... we had alot of fun! I love looking through old photos and the memories they bring back.

Click HEREto see a short video about the show, with some great footage of the bizarre event, by our local PBS station. Made possible by viewers like you...

1 comment:

Michael said...

what the hell shorts are you wearing? Are their drawstrings on the bottoms? :)