Thursday November 01, 2018
“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” is a second-act show-stopper in “Annie the Musical” and the mantra for Dawn Dudley and Kim Steinfeld. These two women provide leadership for the volunteer crew making costumes for Lyric Theatre Company’s fall production of the popular musical. Both residents of South Burlington, Dudley and Steinfeld create the 1930s costume world of Annie and Daddy Warbucks in the costume shop of Lyric’s creative facility on Green Tree Drive. When their work is done, over 100 costumes will be ready for the move to the Flynn five days before Lyric’s show opens Nov. 8 on the MainStage for a six-performance run.
Dudley, the show’s costume designer and construction chair, started sewing around age five, having learned the craft from her mother who had a dressmaking business. She joined Lyric in 2007 as “basically a grunt” on the costume crew for “West Side Story.” Dudley describes the number of hours she has devoted to this production as “half of a full-time job,” a conservative estimate because she averages 30 hours a week while in production between time spent in the Lyric costume shop and other tasks completed at home. By day, Dudley is executive assistant to the site location executive at GlobalFoundries where she has worked for 20 years.
One of the many attributes of local theater companies is its ability to bring family, friends, and community together. Dudley has had the opportunity to experience this firsthand as her daughter Linda is part of the “Annie” costume crew. Not only a third generation seamstress, Linda’s work will be onstage, worn by leading characters Miss Hannigan and Lily St. Regis. In addition, Linda made a costume for Dudley’s eight-year-old niece, who plays an orphan in the musical.
To prepare for costuming “Annie,” Dudley watched the movie, got inspiration from Google and Pinterest, and reviewed period sewing patterns. Given a budget, she takes pride in “working with what I have.” This means pulling from Lyric’s expansive inventory and repurposing, or, as fellow volunteer Suzanne Kneller likes to say, “cannibalizing,” costumes from previous shows. One piece of fabric that was used in the last two productions — as an apron in “A Christmas Story” and a dress in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” — is now a shirt in “Annie.”
Steinfeld’s title on this production is costume logistics and administration manager, a role intended to lighten the designer’s workload. She tracks volunteer hours and the budget, processes invoices, communicates with the crew, manages the schedule, and takes care of the day-to-day operations of the costume shop. All of this is in addition to her work at the University of Vermont Medical Center and her side gig with her partner promoting tourism in Vermont through their company Green Mountain Tourism. Steinfeld will easily accumulate 300 hours before work is done on “Annie” and the costume shop is tidied up in preparation for Lyric’s next production, “Mamma Mia!”
Steinfeld has been making costumes or doing stage work since her children were at Orchard Elementary School and was first introduced to Lyric by Kerry Farrell, costume designer for “The Producers.” This is her sixth production working with what she calls Lyric’s “costume goddesses.”
Once the show moves into the Flynn, Steinfeld will be working with Alex Venet, who is training as head dresser. Together, they will put together schedules for the dressing team, who make the incredibly quick costume changes happen, usually in 30 seconds or less. These backstage changes are a show in itself. Highly choreographed, they are essential to the success of the show. For this production, these changes are particularly challenging for the character of Annie, who is onstage most of the time. In addition to costume changes, dressers attend to every detail including making sure Annie has treats in her pocket for the dog playing Sandy.
Dudley and Steinfeld reflect on a few quick change miracles from previous shows. From getting actors into parachutes for “Tommy,” silencing tap shoes between scenes in “A Christmas Story,” and transitioning an actor from male to female in “Rent,” it is an integral part of the magic of theater.
When asked why she volunteers, Steinfeld said, “Because I don’t know how to say ‘No’,” then thoughtfully added, “I have found a home here and love being a part of everything that we do here at Lyric. When I am working on a show, I am home.”
The show could literally not go on without the work of these dynamic women and the 30 other volunteers who will make the actors of Lyric Theatre Company’s “Annie the Musical” look like a million bucks.
Lyric Theatre Company presents “Annie the Musical” at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington, Nov. 8-11, evening and matinee performances, for more information visit lyrictheatrevt.org.