Progress, progress!

In this issue of Intermission Dishin':

The month of March is when we celebrate the impact women have made collectively to our world. There are many outstanding women who have left their mark at the Grand and we salute all of you - staff, volunteers, patrons, community partners, and artists who have worked with us!

In this newsletter, we say hello to the extraordinary women who form the team from Wigs and Wardrobe.

Together, they share a total of 104 years of experience at the Grand and that many years comes with lots of stories and memories to share with you!

Before we meet them up close, have a look at the progress of the Reno! The tearing down and ripping up has long-stopped and now we are building, drywalling, tiling, and painting (and installing bars!!)

 

The Grand Theatre lobby under construction with some framing for the box office's new location. Ladders and other contruction equipment are positioned around the area.

You may have heard that this reno gives us the opportunity to make room - literally and figuratively at the Grand. To achieve more space, one of major projects is the re-positioning of the Box Office to the north side of the lobby. This shot is looking out toward Richmond Street.

Another look at the area under construction, with a lot of construction, carpentry and cleanup equipment visible. Walls are more permanently framed, and a portion of the ceiling has now been replaced.

Work is moving fast. We can see the transition taking place hour by hour!

 
The wall of the third floor visible walking up the stairs, previously covered with large mirror panels, has been stripped down to its framing.

When we told you that no surface would be 'untouched' - we meant it! Here is a shot of what you will remember as the wall of mirrors between third floor (now BMO London Proud Floor) walking up to the new Drewlo Lounge!

Sunlight streams down in this shot looking up toward the skylight from the stairway, the walls freshly drywalled and painted.

Let the sun shine in! The skylight (did you know we had one?) - has been drywalled and painted for a fresh new perspective!

 
Down on the first floor, two workers can be seen amidst the lower lobby's construction. A worker in the foreground stands by pallets and contruction equipment, and a second worker works in the background next to the elevator.

Work continues in the Auburn Developments Lounge! You'll note the move of the bar to the opposite side of the floor and the opening up of the elevator hallway (worker in yellow hat) - all with the intention of making room!

A closer look at the new Auburn bar on the first floor. Walls are unpainted, and the floor and ceiling are not yet fully finished, but progress is being made!

An up-close look at the framing of the new Auburn bar!

 
A shot from the new Drewlo Lounge on the fourth floor, facing the stairway. The wall leading into the Spriet Stage balcony has been replaced, with a lighter, more modern look.

Recognize this space? A whole new look for the Drewlo Lounge!

A closer look at the wall leading into the balcony level of the Spriet Stage. The wall now has a more modern look with its new, wide panels.

Another up-close look at the transformation of the dark brown paneled walls!

 
A look at the other side of the Drewlo Lounge, looking out toward the street. The space has been opened up, the black drop-ceiling replaced. Construction equipment can be seen in the area, and a view of Richmond Street can be seen through the lounge's large windows.

Gone are the dark ceilings! Bring in the light! Your eyes are drawn to the windows and and fabulous views outside! Exactly what we had in mind with this design choice!

Another shot in the Drewlo Lounge, this time looking at the new Drewlo Lounge Bar. The bar, now much wider than the previous Poster Lounge bar, can be seen, with construction gear in the foreground.

The beginning stages of the soon-to-be stunning Drewlo Lounge Bar. Does the size alone say "Welcome! Come and celebrate theatre with us!" - we think so!! We can't wait for this showpiece to be finished!

 

Memories, stories, and looking ahead to the future!

Meet the Talented Women in Wigs and Wardrobe!

From the dress bonfire to belting out the Mamas and Papas - from pant mix-ups to that special pride that comes from new underwear .. read about the stories and memories from the team and what is exciting them about an eventual return to work and their new space!

The Wigs and Wardrobe team pose for a selfie wearing colourful face masks in the wardrobe department, prior to the renovation.

Team Photo taken in early fall 2020 when public health restrictions did not require 6' physical distancing measures.
Pictured (L to R): Raz Zemitis (Wig and Wardrobe Mistress), Lisa Wright (Head of Wardrobe), Kathryn Sherwin (Wardrobe Cutter), Lacie George (Costumer), and Elaine Ball (Assistant Head of Wardrobe and Accessories Builder)

What is your job title?

Raz Zemitis

Raz

I am the Wig & Wardrobe Mistress. In a nutshell, I work backstage during each performance to organize the costumes and wigs. I help the actors get into their costume and wigs at the beginning of each show and then assist with changes during the show. As well, after every show I do laundry so that the costumes are fresh for the next day’s performance.
 
Elaine Ball

Elaine

I am the Assistant Head of Wardrobe/Accessories Builder. My job as assistant, is to assist Lisa, our Head of Wardrobe, in keeping track of costumes for each show. I attend production meetings and keep ‘the costume bible’ up to date, write the dresser sheets, assist in fittings, contact actors to get measurements and information on their current hair length when needed, as well as any allergies they may have, etc. I also dye fabric and garments and do breakdown on costumes. Really, it’s my job to do anything required by the Head of Wardrobe to help get the show on stage successfully.

As Accessories Builder, I pull any hats or accessories required for fittings and then alter or build new pieces required for the show, working closely with the designer to get what they want. Accessories include jewellery, masks, hats, tails, wings, ties, belts, pretty much anything that is worn that is not a garment.
 
Lisa Wright

Lisa

I am the Head of Wardrobe. I oversee everything that goes on in wardrobe and wigs/makeup. I work closely with the designers to help them produce the costume design look they want for the play. I do the buying/shopping with and without the designer. I make sure all staff have the materials they need to produce the play. I decide what costume pieces we will build and which ones we will buy and which ones we pull from stock. I am also responsible for finding all of the foot ware and undergarments for the actors. I attend fittings and make sure all pieces to be fit are present at the fittings. I have to be aware of time and budget for each play.
 
Kathryn Sherwin

Kathryn

I am the Wardrobe Cutter. I interpret the designs brought to us from the Costume Designers for each show. Lisa and I look at the budget and timelines, review what needs to be made and what we could pull from our existing stock. Then I develop the patterns for the costumes and most often, cut them. On smaller shows I also do some sewing as well. The wardrobe department is very much a team so I often refer to myself and others as ‘costumers’ as the work is multi-faceted with everyone pitching in.
 
Lacie George

Lacie

I am a Costumer. I take direction from our Cutter (Kathryn) and build costumes, tailor costumes and sew/alter wardrobe pieces that we may use from our stock inventory. I have to say off the top that I think our wardrobe team is second to none. We always go the extra mile to make sure every actor looks and feels their absolute best. It’s a pleasure to work with my colleagues who share this philosophy!

What pathway led you to this work?

Raz Zemitis

Raz

In high school I was active in our theatre department (I was a Shark in West Side Story in grade 11). I graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (way before it was a university) in technical theatre and finally was lucky to apprentice at the Banff Centre. Within a year I was hired at the Grand and wig maker, Gerry Altenburg, was brought in to train me. Gerry is currently the Head of Wigs and MakeUp at The Stratford Festival. I’ll always be thankful to the Grand for the on-the-job training I received.
 
Elaine Ball

Elaine

I grew up sewing and working with textiles from a very young age and started designing costumes in high school. I trained at the National Theatre School in Montreal for Costume and Set Design. Most of my training happened on the job.
 
Lisa Wright

Lisa

I have a diploma for fashion design from Fanshawe College. I had a four month work term at the Stratford Festival during my schooling at Fanshawe. I fell in love with theatre through that work term and never looked back!
 
Kathryn Sherwin

Kathryn

I took Fashion Techniques and Design at Sheridan College and graduated in 1972. In my second year, under a Canada Grants summer job placement I worked on a film production. When the designer had issues with their pacemaker I was asked if I could manage the job on my own. I answered “sure” and was hooked on theatrical costuming/wardrobe ever since. My first job was at McCulloch’s in London. When working at a fabric store in Stratford, I overheard some young women talking about taking a sewing test to work at the Festival – I took it – passed - and ended working for 23 seasons at the Festival. I’ve worked at many theatre companies across Canada and am proud to say that I’ve done work for Broadway productions as well including Jekyll and Hyde. I’ve been to New York so many times but the only time I actually got to see a show or do any sightseeing was when our costumes did not arrive for fittings in time.
 
Lacie George

Lacie

I always thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had no real exposure to theatre in my life apart from one trip to Huron County Playhouse when I was very young. I earned a Diploma in Fashion Design but I wasn’t ‘feeling’ the world of fashion so decided to talk a post-grad theatre studies course. I really loved the idea of building art pieces as part of a theatre production. One of my teachers was Elaine Ball so she encouraged me to do my co-op placement at the Grand. The first show I worked on was Shrek and I made ears and hats... I loved it... and have never looked back!

How long have you been at The Grand Theatre?

Raz Zemitis

Raz

Consistently for 35 years.
 
Elaine Ball

Elaine

I first volunteered at The Grand in 1982 on two shows, and then worked on a few shows for the rep season. My first full season was 1987/88 and I have spent 24 full seasons at the Grand and several others where I have worked on 2 or 3 shows in a season.
 
Lisa Wright

Lisa

I have been at the Grand for 20 straight seasons - seven as assistant head of wardrobe and thirteen as Head of Wardrobe. Before that I sewed at the Grand on and off since 1989.
 
Kathryn Sherwin

Kathryn

I am in my 19th consecutive season at the Grand.
 
Lacie George

Lacie

I have been at the Grand for 6 seasons now.

What was your favourite production and/or the most challenging production thus far?

Raz Zemitis

Raz

My favourite was Beauty and the Beast just because it’s a magical play.

My most challenging is really a tie. Our recent productions of A Christmas Carol was challenging logistically because of the organizing the costumes ‘backstage’ – the size of the show meant that there wasn’t really a ‘backstage’ and lots of our work was visible to the audiences. And, Legends - I believe there ended up being 95 wigs in that show and just me to take care of them!
 
Elaine Ball

Elaine

This is so hard to pick! My favourite production to build was Pride and Prejudice, such lovely hats! My favourite production to watch was Cabaret. My most challenging so far was The Mountaintop. Getting the wings rigged to open easily for Beryl was a tough – but we did it and what an impact that scene had! People still talk about it to this day! That makes me smile.
 
Lisa Wright

Lisa

My favourite production and most challenging is A Thousand Splendid Suns. I love the story, the struggle and the outcome. I love the visual of the set, it’s beautiful.

It was challenging because initially it was supposed to be a ‘brought in’ show and then it was decided that we were to produce the costumes. I worked with the designers in the US but it was tough to do that level of consultation from a distance (San Francisco). Eventually, I was able to get a hold of a video of the play and so I watched that about a million times to get an idea of what the show should look like. I was not very familiar with the clothes from specifically Afghanistan, so had to do a lot of research. It was a learning curve for sure but I was really proud of the end result!
 
Kathryn Sherwin

Kathryn

I really enjoy fantasy and musical productions as I see theatre as an opportunity to escape. I also love Greek tragedies so I found our production of The Penelopiad really rewarding on so many levels. Our team was pushed really hard to achieve what we did. We had a lot of fun and the work was really stunning in the end. Some of my favourite pieces include Joseph’s Dreamcoat and Bill Layton’s design for the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. It was a cool design that was super complicated to do but really beautiful.
 
Lacie George

Lacie

My most favourite production was The Penelopiad. We worked so hard as a team and I was so proud of the beautiful pieces we created. Each of the maiden costumes was so unique and gorgeous. I was particularly proud having worked on Seana McKenna’s costume – which was made almost entirely of silk – not the easiest fabric to handle. I also really loved working on Dream a Little Dream – which was really my first official show that I worked on as a staff person. I watched Karen Merriam really closely and tried to learn as much as I could from her incredible skills and was so grateful to Kathryn who put a great deal of faith in me to execute the Mama Cass’ costumes even as new as I was to the job.

Give us some scoop... some insider information!

Raz Zemitis

Raz

For most shows it’s just me taking care of the actors and running the show. Often for the holiday productions, the High School Projects and musicals, I will have two or three extra dressers to help me. But when we did Dance Legends there were 7 extra dressers plus 2 others to help with laundry in the mornings! We have never had that many before or since! To say there were a lot of costumes in that show is an understatement!

I have a funny story about when we did Legends. There were a lot of numbers where the actors were playing a musical group that dressed in the same outfits. One night we got two of the actors pants mixed up! We didn’t realize until they were on stage and we noticed that the pant lengths were way off on two of the guys. Needless to say, one guy happily thought he’d lost weight and the other thought he had way too much for dinner!! Unfortunately this happens occasionally but luckily everyone gets a chuckle out of it.
 
Elaine Ball

Elaine

When I first worked at the Grand, what is now the accessories room, was the prop shop AND design office. It’s hard to imagine all of us doing the work in that small space.

In Shrek, Pinocchio's nose was rigged to get longer by squeezing a rubber ball, which forced air through a tube, and pushed the nose extension forward. On opening night (and several other occasions) the actor squeezed too hard and his nose flew across the stage!
 
Lisa Wright

Lisa

This story is from the production of Cinderella we did a number of years ago. There was a dress that we pulled from stock that we put on one of the female dancers at the ball. It was really ugly. Not even the designer liked it. It was one of those situations when we really should have built it, but we didn’t have the time or money to. We tried to make the dress a bit ‘happier’, but to no avail. During the run, it was falling apart and had kept coming back for repairs. Everyone had a real hate on for this dress.

I had a staff party at the end of that season. I bought a steel garbage can and we had a ‘dress bonfire’ at the party. Because the dress was polyester, the fire was so stinky and smoky that I was afraid the neighbours were going to call the fire department.

I have an underwear story too! We were working on a production of Macbeth. Bonnie (Head of Wardrobe), Charlotte Dean (Designer) and I were just starting a fitting with a male actor. When he arrived, we explained the costume and instructed him what to put on first. Once we finished our short tutorial, we went to leave the fitting room so he could get changed and he said to us “NO!! Don’t go!! I bought new underwear for this fitting!” So, of course, we all stayed and admired his new underwear - to each their own!
 
Kathryn Sherwin

Kathryn

I have some really fond memories of The Hobbit and Stephen Gartner’s (Gandalf) fittings. He is a tall actor to begin with and the hat we made for him made him that much taller. His young daughter Zoe, came with him to one fitting and spent most of her time hiding by his legs under the extravagant cape we had made for him. She was adorable!
 
Lacie George

Lacie

During our prep for Dream a Little Dream, we played a Mamas and Papas album over and over and over – we practiced all the harmonies and I had a little plan hatched that the wardrobe team would be the intermission entertainment act... but that never materialized! We never got sick of the music though! I am known in our team as being a bit of a chatterbox – always asking questions, talking away, sharing stories and laughs but for our work on The Wizard of Oz, there was so much work. All the pieces were very ‘couture’ and complex and I had no time to chat. The team had no time to admire the work until it was on the stage. Oh – and I once sewed my fingernail to a piece using the industrial sewing machine .. not on purpose... but that was the last time I grew my nails long!

What are you looking forward to the most once we are able to return?

Raz Zemitis

Raz

I’m looking forward to interacting with people other than my husband! Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband but I miss my co-workers, and meeting new actors, designers and directors. It’s amazing how much the whole collaborative process of putting on a show is ingrained in me and what a hole there has been in my soul this past year.
 
Elaine Ball

Elaine

Seeing all my work colleagues, setting up our beautiful new space after the reno and building a show!
 
Lisa Wright

Lisa

I look forward to seeing and working with everyone again! I am also really excited about exploring our new spaces. I can’t wait!
 
Kathryn Sherwin

Kathryn

I am really looking forward to working in the new space after the reno, particularly the expanded fitting rooms. Having worked in so many design offices and fitting rooms, I really think our space will be one of the best, if not the best, to work in now. This is really great news for our guest designers and our entire team!
 
Lacie George

Lacie

I am most looking forward to sharing energy with the magical people I work with. I feel a little boost of energy whenever we gather on zoom as a staff – I just can’t wait to be back in person with everyone.
 

Elaine Ball - Assistant Head of Wardrobe and Accessories Builder shows off what she described as one of the most challenging pieces created by the Wardrobe team.

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