Team Colors: Outfitting Sports Fans in Black and Blue
The play's title, Black and Blue, refers to the uniforms worn by Chicago's two baseball teams—black and white for the Sox, Blue and Red for the Cubs—in this world premiere play by Nick Digilio and Anthony Tournis. They are the flags under which brothers Jake and Tommy pledge their respective allegiances. Despite their widower father's attempts to address the needs of his sons, friendly dissent becomes grimly serious after a wager is proposed to decide the merits of their respective clubs. As the years pass, the contest becomes a catalyst for deeper rivalries that threaten to impair the siblings' psychological progress to maturity. "You're a pair of bitter young men turning into bitter old men!" the bartender in their father's tavern warns them.
Family feuds have been founded on less. Theatergoers not sharing this particular obsession may consider ten years devoted to spectator sport-loyalty an exaggeration, but they need only note that Graceland cemetery has a section set aside exclusively for Cubs supporters determined to "root, root, root for the home team" beyond the grave to evidence the stubborn loyalty of the appropriately-dubbed "die-hard fans."
But what a decade of bar-buddies wearing their affiliations on their sleeves (among other places) means for Factory Theater costumer Carla Hamilton is an extensive wardrobe of t-shirts, caps and jackets sufficient to outfit not only Jake and Tommy, but an assortment of strangers wandering into Sonny's tavern—expatriate New Yorkers, single-minded movie buffs, a mixed Cubs/Sox female couple whose sports-savvy teamwork renders them victorious at baseball trivia. And then there is the occasional football or hockey fan proclaiming their chosen champions.
This is a lot of souvenir-stand garb to assemble on a small budget. Fortunately, Hamilton found herself in the hire of a family-style ensemble willing to share the contents of their closets.
"I was incredibly lucky to have a cast both generous and age-diverse," she exults, "Almost all of the sports gear—including some cherished vintage pieces—were lent by the cast and crew members."
So who ended up with whose clothes? "Anthony Tournis, who plays Jake, and Greg Caldwell, who plays Tommy, are wearing their own Cubs and Sox gear. Heidi Grace—one of the women who trounce the boys at trivia—is dressed in a Cubs shirt provided by Laura Deger's Liz, who wears the Blackhawks jersey that Nick [Digilio] brought in. Oh, and our sound designer/managing director Chas Vrba supplied the Bears jersey worn by Papa-Bear Sonny, Brian Amidei."
What about the t-shirts reading "Cubs Suck" and "Future Bulls Fan"? You're not likely to see those in the tourist shops. "Those two I designed and ordered myself off Cafe Press," Hamilton confesses, "And the non-sports items came from nearby thrift shops after we verified the look from photographs taken during the period—from 1997 to 2007—referenced in the play. So yes, we actually had to buy some of the costumes."
Black and Blue continues at Prop Thtr through September 3.
Mary Shen Barnidge
Follow Us On Twitter