Community, creativity helped make Tarzan costumes and sets
1,000 T-shirts, 5,000 shopping bags donated
ALBION – The drama department used creativity and lots of community support to make the gorilla costumes and the sets for the production of Tarzan, which opens tonight at 7, with shows at noon and 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Each of the 23 gorillas needed about 20 to 30 T-shirts for their costume. The drama department didn’t have the funds to rent gorilla suits for the cast, and those suits also wouldn’t have worked well with the many dancing scenes.
Kathy Winans, the co-director, wanted loose-fitting and sleeveless costumes for the gorillas. She had the idea of cutting up T-shirt in 5-inch strips. She and her many volunteers used a rotary cutter to make the strips. They were sewn onto a mesh shirt underneath.
“The movement gives the illusion of fur,” Winans said.
All of the gorilla costumes have a base of black strips. But Winans didn’t want them to be all black. Each gorilla could pick other colors to help differentiate them on stage. The gorillas have different color highlights, whether purple, white, brown, red, pink, green, yellow, gray, blue and other colors.
(Those colors will help parents and the crowd identify the gorillas during the show. The gorillas will have face makeup on during the shows and would be hard to pick out on stage without the flairs of color.)
Winans needed nearly 1,000 T-shirts to pull off the feat, which includes more T-shirt strands for wigs. The community came through.
“I’d get to school and there would be a bag of T-shirts in my mailbox,” she said.
Each gorilla costume took 10 to 15 hours to make. Winans had her home room students help when they had free time. Winans, a special education teacher, also called on students in her 12:1:1 class to help.
Karen Dibley, the costume coordinator, also was busy formonths making the outfits. Sara Moore, Tara Thom and Marlene Seielstad, parents of gorillas in the cast, also helped make some of the costumes.
Winans started the process last June, after Gary Simboli, the show’s director, announced Tarzan would be the spring musical. Winans checked fabric samples at stores, and didn’t like the price ($18 a yard) or how the cut fabric “moved.”
It took several months of effort to make the costumes, with the final gorilla outfit finished in February. Winans likes the look of the gorillas.
“I was nervous if it would work,” she said. “But once I saw the colors, I was very excited and knew it would work.”
Saving money on those costumes allowed the drama department to spend more in other areas, particularly for flying equipment, so seven characters could be lifted above the stage. That harness and rigging system cost about $7,000.
Simboli had an idea that also took a community effort to pull off. He wanted vines to move on stage and not be stagnant.
He thought tying together plastic grocery bags from Wegmans would do the trick. It took more than 5,000 bags to pull it off with many donated by Wegmans.
The stage crew and Winans’ students also made flowers from shopping bags.
“Pinterest has been our friend,” Winans joked.