One of the last things I envision while reading a script is what the characters are wearing. I’m more concerned with character confrontations and plot. Not so for Sandra Huntsman – at least when she’s designing.
For “Crazy for You” – the celebrated Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions musical winding up a three-week run Saturday at the Spring Mountain Ranch – Huntsman had to come up with pleasantly gaudy big-city showgirl outfits, small-town showgirl outfits, plain-folk duds, and the carefully tailored body luxuries of the American noblesse oblige.
The script gave the 34-year-old Idaho native (and 22-year Vegas resident) an obvious starting point. It begins in swank New York society, and then segues into the small-town life of Deadrock, Nev. It doesn’t take a deep thinker to realize that the different locales involve very different clothing. Huntsman encourages us to laugh at the contrast when we see an obscenely overdressed middle-age woman in fur contrasted with the plain duds of the no-nonsense hicksville miners.
She spends a lot of time searching stores (cheap ones) around town and in Los Angeles for fabric and color. She says she has to make sure the costumes not only look good individually, but also complement one another in group scenes.
And the creations have to do more than highlight the obvious.
“Costumes can help explain a character’s progression,” she says. “A character may go from being a tomboy to an elegant woman in an evening dress. The question is, how did she get there? Clothes can help tell that story.”
Huntsman’s job isn’t done once the show is onstage.
“Designs may change because you don’t realize until (late) that things don’t go together,” she explains. “And sometimes the lights will wind up washing colors out. That’s why collaboration is so important.”
Huntsman also understands that actors can be very strong in their opinion of what kinds of clothes they should wear.
“Actors, like everybody else, come with their own set of insecurities. Sometimes great-looking people have body issues. I try to compromise as much as I can. I want them to feel comfortable. But sometimes I just have to say, ‘Please. Trust me. I’m not going to let you go out there and look bad.’ ”
Huntsman knows a little something about actors’ insecurities. She’s one herself, and plays a major role in “Crazy for You.” But her fascination with costuming has obviously affected her perceptions.
“Even when I read books, I tend to visualize what the people are wearing.”
With all the research required, in addition to the physical labor and creativity, she acknowledges her job is a lot of hard work for brief-run productions. She tries to offset that by a costuming-rental business that’s just getting off the ground.
“My husband and I (performer, director, designer Steve Huntsman) seem to have reached the point where we finally don’t have to work (nontheater related) jobs. So, even when it’s frustrating, I’m grateful.”
(Costume rental info: firstname.lastname@example.org. “Crazy for You” info: supersummertheatre.org.)
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at
email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.