Flash Dressing: Costume Changes in Enron
In big custom-built theaters, rip-and-throw costume changes are implemented with the aid of hidden dressers, but the room that houses Timeline Theatre's production of Lucy Prebble's Enron is buried in the depths of a church community hall, its in-the-round configuration mandating that the nine actors who play more than two dozen characters frequently exit, only to dash down stairs, through basements and then upstairs again to emerge on the opposite side of the stage. Add in Prebble's fondness for swift locale-shifts, and what you have is a scenario executed at road-runner cartoon speed.
Velcro and shirt-tie-and-vest dickeys simplify some of it, acknowledges costume designer Elizabeth Flauto, but then, there are the full-head masks: "The 'three-blind-mice' heads are made of foam and have a chin-strap to hold them in place—but the mice are not particularly active. The raptors, on the other hand, are very active, so those masks are constructed around a helmet-suspension liner, with the nose-holes providing openings for sight, and an adjustable band to ensure safety, security and comfort for the quick on-and-offs."
Even so, the actors who wear them face a workout: "The visibility in the raptor masks is limited, so learning to see out of them takes awhile," confesses Demetria Thomas. Benjamin Sprunger concurs, "After my raptor finally dies onstage, I'm a sweaty mess, but I still have three minutes onstage playing one of the stock analysts, before running through the basement to enter on the opposite side of the stage in a new tie and hat for 30 seconds of stage time, after which I run back and up two flights of stairs to the balcony!"
Christopher Allen declares his last change to be his most difficult, "After the funeral scene, I have two minutes to race under the stage to the opposite side for my one line in the epilogue," while Thomas cites a 16-part sprint that encompasses a "crossover with the three raptor heads, Matt's jacket, and my blouse and first-scene wig, where I change again for the final raptor scene," adding, "Then I get a water break."
The most challenging swap, however, appears to be Matt Holzfeind's "Governator" change, in which he appears as Arnold Schwarzenegger for a brief moment. "I have all of ten seconds to run offstage in pitch dark, take off my 'Trader' sweater, put on the 'muscle coat' and Arnold-mask before stepping right back onstage."
Actors and designers alike are unanimous in their praise of Zachary Roberts—aka "The heroic Zachary Roberts" and "The wonderful amazing Zachary Roberts"—whose duties as the sole "production assistant" include keeping track of the constantly-moving wardrobe and props during the show's running time. How does he feel about his job as one-man stage crew?
"It would be impossible without this generous and collaborative ensemble," admits Roberts, "They are always finding ways to help me during the show—opening doors, holding curtains and carrying props—especially at the end of act one, when I run across the basement twice and then have to prep the lobby for intermission. It's a whirlwind, yes, but it's also become a lot of fun, too."
Mary Shen Barnidge
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