One of my favorite costume craft materials to work with is Worbla. It is a thermoplastic which means when it is heated (ie: heat gun, boiling water, etc) it takes on a new property. The thing I like about Worbla is that when heated it becomes a very malleable substance, which is best described as a warm tortilla made with bits of playdough.
The stuff is great!
I was introduced to Worbla while working at the Omaha Community Playhouse on their production of The Wizard of Oz. Unlike such thermoplastics as Fosshape, Worbla has a higher heat tolerance and does not burn holes as easily. It also does not shrink like some other thermoplastics, and can be reheated well just like the leftovers of your favorite restaurant.
The Worbla I used for my craft projects on The Wizard of Oz also had an "adhesive side" which made mounting it to itself or other materials a little easier.
Above are two of many costume crafts using Worbla. They both show Worbla's "draping" abilities. The first two photos show a pair of shoes that I converted into lion feet using molds and Worbla. I was very pleased with the vein detail I could get using the Worbla in it's moldable state. The latter two photos show a headpiece for the Cowardly Lion. The mask portion was "draped" with a mold, while the ears were hand crafted.
Now that you have seen how Worbla can be used, you obviously want to go out and start creating your own things. I will caution you that as with any thermoplastic, Worbla can get very hot, and I have had more than one occasion that I have been burnt using it. My best advice is to try it out for yourself with trial and error. Worbla may work for you, it may not. I just happen to think it is an amazing material that could easily be added to any costume craft arsenal.
There are many sacrifices we make as theatre technicians: we do not have a normal weekend, our beds hardly know who we are, etc. Most of these things I am happy to forego if it means I can practice the craft I love. There is only one thing that I hate sacrificing as a young professional.
Recently I had to make a very difficult choice. I had to choose between being employed for a 5 month gig OR attending my cousin's wedding. If I signed my contract I would not be given the one day off to attend his wedding. For many people this would be a no brainer; attend the wedding. For me it was different.
Being newly out of college I find it hard to find jobs. The listings are there, but not many will give interviews. They are looking for more experience. I had to decide on giving up a position that I knew would give me the experience needed for future employment, and also money to fund my constant moving, OR give up a day with my family (which is hard to come by as well).
I discussed the issue with my family as a whole, but ultimately the decision was mine to make. I chose to take the job.
Movies to Musicals; a trend?
According to an article I recently read at BBC News, 20th Century Fox is planning to turn one or more of its films into musicals. This made me ask myself a few questions.
To answer these questions I had to do a little research. I first researched the former question, "Why choose musicals". It could be that musicals make more money or have a wider appeal, but I know many people who would prefer a good old straight play to all the singing and bounding about the stage. Then I found an interesting article by Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal entitled Why Straight Plays Can't Make it on Broadway. The article related facts and figures making new plays pricey to produce on Broadway. It would be a good business move (if you are after profits) to go with a musical. Musicals, despite their high cost seem to bring in more people than an equally expensive straight play. I understand the choice, but some movies just aren't meant to be transposed in song (another opinion for another post). I gathered that movie studios want to make musicals out of their films because they want to open on Broadway with profits. They don't want to open at some regional theatre and workshop around the States or in the UK; the studios want a big grand Broadway debut with singing and dancing. Who would blame them. Broadway is glamorous and idealized just like Hollywood. They want what they know.
I dare not stop there; Nancy Drew still had a question and the mystery was still afoot!
The latter questions about the trend of movies to musicals is a bit harder to sort through. It certainly has been done many times. Musicals such as this past year's Once come to mind along with Disney's the Lion King, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and, Legally Blonde: The Musical. Many people enjoyed these adaptations, but a blockbuster movie does not a broadway musical make. My opinion is also shared by film producer John Davis:
A big, popular movie doesn't always lend itself to a live experience.
I'm glad someone is thinking what I am thinking.
As I searched, another question popped into my head.
There are certain ways of telling a story that translate better on film and others equally as relevant that translate better on stage. It is very rarely that a movie does well as a musical and vise versa. I can think of a few, but most are Disney movies (Beauty and the Beast was once said to be born to be a Broadway musical) and the others are few and far between (Footloose and Hairspray are on the top of my list). I am still mixed about 20th Century Fox's plans to produce musical versions of its movies, but I will be anxious to see how they use the art of live theatre to retell their stories.
As I finish this article visions of "that spider musical" flash through my head. I do not wish that on these new musical adaptations, but I think it is a good parable to tell to ANY Broadway bound show.
Being newly thrust into the professional theatre world (one year is still new) I am constantly looking for my next gig. The number of costuming jobs is not large, but they exist. The only drawback I constantly run up against is "the phrase of terror":
Must have 3 years professional experience
Like I said, being newly thrust into the professional theatre world, I do not have three years in a specific area of costuming. I have equivalency in some areas thanks to internships, my class work, and workshops; but not the honest three years in a specific area some positions require.
As I sit there staring down my computer screen I think, "How am I supposed to get three years experience professionally if almost all the professional places require three years of experience?" I then think it through a little more and realize starting out I can get equivalence in areas and more internships offer more experience, but it's never the honest to goodness three years in say Cutting/Draping or Costume Crafts. I know how to do it, but I haven't spent three years doing it because not every job I apply for and get is in Costume Crafts.
Many "job help" or "resume aid" sites prompt a new candidate to tailor their non related experiences towards the job they are applying for. This can be helpful in most areas, but is a bit more problematic in theatre. If you do not know how to work with leather, you do not know how to work with leather. You may have worked with "pleather" or cork leather once, but it does not act the same as leather.
And who came up with this magic three number? Who's to say that three years makes someone qualified for a job? I picture a university based study in which little data was collected and of the data collected most of it was skewed. Likewise, who's to say that someone isn't proficient with a skill after only six months of hard study? This three number is a rather grey area if you ask me.