Rehearsals are not the only long hours that have gone into dance and theatre performances at Bowdoin. Each semester, students in the Costume Shop are hard at work sewing from scratch or altering costumes for actors and dancers before the productions ever even reach the stage.
The shop, located at 82 Federal St., was moved from the basement of Adams Hall this summer. Supplies and costumes are also located at the Edward-Pols house on Bath Road, and in the building that was formerly the Brunswick Flower Shop.
Students are often introduced to the Costume Shop through a 100- level course in the theater department that focuses on many aspects of stagecraft, including lighting, scenery, and costumes. After this class, some students begin a work- study partnership with the department.
"Usually most people go through Stagecraft, and from Stagecraft they'll offer people jobs," said Clara Cantor '08, who began working in the costume shop in her sophomore year.
Students who become involved with the shop are usually interested in theater, but not necessarily interested in being in the spotlight.
"I really like theater, but I would hate to act," said Clara Cantor '08.
Some students discover the costume shop through other ways. Liz Shaw '08 learned about it in a dance class during her first year when she met the women who had designed costumes for her performance.
She began working in the shop during her sophomore year, though she had not had previous experience with sewing or costuming.
"It wasn't something I knew much about, although I did love fashion," said Shaw.
According to McMurry, it is not uncommon for people who work in the costume shop to have no previous experience. She said that "more than half don't know how to sew," at the beginning. Others may know the vocabulary for sewing, but "don't really know the basics," she said.
Typically, one major theater production and one large dance production take place each semester. In addition, there are usually a few independent study performances that also require costumes. Consequently, even students who have never sewn before quickly learn how to make costumes that can be used more than once.
"I like to try to do things the right way," said McMurry. "In theater, you can be tempted to take shortcuts, but I don't like to do that. If you build something nicely, you can use it again and again."
Because costumes are often used from one production to another, students also learn to sew so that alterations can be easily made in the future. This includes adding seam allowances so the clothes can be let out, building in pleats, and adding extra space in waistbands.
Students who worked in the costume shop stressed that the business was a collaborative effort, and that it usually takes many people to make a finished costume.
According to McMurry, "every show has something made from scratch." These costumes are sometimes very elaborate, and require the work of many students.
"It's nice because people can see a finished product and know that they've made part of it," said Shaw. "If you're making something from scratch, it's never finished in one day."
Each costume has "passed through so many different hands," added Lily Prentice '10.
Prentice said that although it can sometimes be a rush to finish or alter all the costumes in time for rehearsals and the performance, being in the shop is a welcomed break.
"It's totally relaxing," she said. "It's calm, and a fun environment. You can go and forget about all the stuff you have to do."
There are, of course, crunch periods right before performances. Prentice, who designed all the costumes for "365 Days/365 Plays," has been working hard all week to prepare for the play's production this weekend.
Prentice, who is getting class credit for her work as a student designer, started work on costumes for the 12 roles even before classes had started this semester.
"The nature of the show is that [the actors] each have three or four costumes," said Prentice. "We built some of them just from scratch, and altered a lot that we had."
In addition to doing the design and sewing, Prentice has been attending rehearsals for the show periodically all semester in order toincorporate actors' ideas and needs into her costume design.
"I'm going to have so much time when the show is over," she said. She added that although the last-minute alterations and changes are stressful for everyone, when the show is together "it's going to be a good feeling."
Prentice added that she would definitely design costumes for a show again in the future.
In addition to providing costumes for productions, the shop also provides costumes for students to use for class projects.
Students can "sign [costumes] out like a library book" and bring them back when they are finished, said McMurry.
"They have all these random costumes and they would rather you use them than they just sit in storage than never get used again," added Cantor.