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939 Harvard Street
Rochester, NY 14610
USA

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Blog

It all began with Dorothy.  

 

Feathers, They're for the Birds!

Maureen Tierson

Feathers have been a constant in the tradition of theatrical costumes, and our costumes have been no exception. People love them because their natural design is so elegant and ethereal. They make us feel special and give an unmistakable brilliance to our costumes and characters. They are dyed in every color we could ask for: purple, hot pink, light pink, boas that are black with silver sparkles, white with gold sparkles, rainbow color, and on and on. If you have any doubt about the feeling of importance and loveliness when wearing a fluffy feather boa, hand one to a 3-year-old and see how that child takes on a whole new persona of elegance and sophistication. But don’t do that, really; I think we can all picture that. You’ll understand why later.

When we grow up seeing this all around us and no one questioning it, it’s easy to accept that it must be okay. There couldn’t be anything wrong with wearing feathers if the people we look up to and trust are doing it, right? We see it in the movies, on celebrities, in dance recitals, and on stages. Then we see them in the stores and they look so uniform and nicely displayed and packaged. We might have fleeting thoughts once in a while such as, ‘But, where does the down in that warm coat come from? How do they get those beautiful Ostrich feathers to the store?’ It’s such a normal part of our society that the mental inquiry usually stops there. Sadly, I am speaking from my own experience.

Two years ago, I changed my diet and my lifestyle choices and became vegan. In the beginning, I focused solely on food. I was doing this on my own, so it was kind of like jumping in the deep end to learn how to swim. Once I got used to buying and preparing food that was free from harm and animal products, I started thinking about the rest of my impact on the lives of animals and the planet. Of course, leather isn’t vegan. I had leather shoes, leather bags, and leather furniture. The bags were easy to part with first. The shoes took some time because replacing them was more difficult, but I’ve managed to do it, and I no longer use any leather furniture either. Fur had already been a deal breaker for me for as long as I can remember. So, there was nothing to change at my home or my shop there.

Then, at work, I started to think about the feather boas and the feather headbands, the “Feather Dusters” from Beauty and the Beast. The “Bird Girls” in Seussical, the “Natives” in Peter Pan, and the “Pick-a-little Ladies” in The Music Man. Our angel wings in It’s a Wonderful Life. Oy. I was actually using a LOT of feathers in my shows. Like you, I think of myself as a passionate and intelligent person, and as a creative, I’m extremely sensitive, but somehow, my mind had overlooked the reality that these authentic bird feathers that can be bought so easily online to go with any of my costumes were definitely causing harm to the birds to which they rightfully belonged!

It really only takes a quick Google search to find out the cruel circumstances of where the feathers come from. If you are interested in learning more about that, I suggest checking out PETA’s posts about feathers.

I am done supporting the costume feather industry. After all, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. It really upsets me that it’s taken this long for me to face the music on this issue. I know that the feathers belong to these magnificent creatures in nature. When I think about the mystifying diversity of birds and why we love to imitate them in the first place, I know that these beauties should be wearing their regal ‘costumes’ they were born into and living long, glorious lives. They should be flaunting their feathers for us to admire so much that we find ways to replicate them with honor and respect rather than steal them with cruelty.

As for how this will affect our costumes at the shop and on your actors, I am going to be replacing all of the real bird feathers with imitations or designs that have the feather-like effect. As you know, in theatre, we can make magical things happen from pure imagination. “Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it!” Simple for Wonka, since it’s written out for him. In the real world, it may take a little more work, and a little more time. I’m still aiming for Paradise on Earth.

If you would like to help support the amazing, compassionate efforts of those who work hard to save our feathered friends and other animals from the cruel harm and destruction of factory farming, consider donating to an animal farm sanctuary. During this month of May, The Costume Room is running a fundraiser for Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary, where more than 70 rescue chickens are living out their happy lives. When you make a donation, we will double your donation amount in credit toward your costume rental.




"Over the Rainbow." Cue Tears.

Maureen Tierson

Just looking at the lyrics of Over the Rainbow makes me well up and feel all mushy.  When I was a kid, I felt lucky to see The Wizard of Oz on TV once a year, on Easter.  It was such a strange and fantastical movie.  The monkeys and witch were terrifying, but Dorothy and her friends made me stick with it.  Personally, I was most fascinated with Glinda, who could float into the most tragic situation and be Dorothy's guide to escape the darkness and evil, and of course, find her way back home.  

The song is made for every dreamer, and everyone else who pretends not to be a dreamer.  The lyrics are so full of longing and escape from the harsh reality of any situation we're in.  Longing for greatness, just around the corner. Hope for all that is good, to win.  It brings us together when we hear it, as we relate to the pain and suffering that the lyrics imply.  Still, we hope. We hope for peace and love to prevail.  We hope for the world to change with our optimism.  We hope for the world to make sense to us and be the way we imagine it is meant to be.  

This is how the song unites us.  The dreamer in me makes my heart ache, but also makes me move forward in difficult situations.  Anything is possible.  If you dream it and believe it, it will happen.  Insert your favorite optimistic quote here.

The thread of this song continued in my life from the time that I was a preschooler, glued to the TV screen. I always loved the old musicals and would dress up and act out the scenes of the leading ladies. Skip ahead a few years, and I remember practicing this song in my 20s, when I was briefly exploring a career as a singer.  And later, watching my beautiful little preschooler act out the whole movie, The Wizard of Oz, while watching it on VHS, over, and over, and over. She was infatuated with Dorothy and Scarecrow, and has Scarecrow, Witch and Dorothy costumes that I made for her at that age.  Jump ahead to her middle school years, where she played Dorothy (in mom-made costume,) and on to high school, where she once again, played Dorothy her senior year.  That same year, that high school production was my first venture as costume designer, and as a volunteer, for the entire production, of The Wizard of Oz.  I won North Shore Music Theatre's Spotlight Award for Best Costume Designer. This was life-changing.  Two years after that, I left my career as an educator of children to open The Costume Room. 

Each time I prepare the Wizard of Oz costumes for another group, all of these memories come back to me.  I then imagine the excitement and anticipation of the actors as they are waiting to see their costumes, and put them on for the first time.  I imagine the legacy of each costume that is now woven into its existence as it gains more experience with each new actor.  And the songs play on repeat in my head the whole time.  This is my over the rainbow.  This is my joy. It is just one part of my job that I am in love with. And it all began with the song, Over the Rainbow.  Cue tears.

New Beginnings Fall 2016

Maureen Tierson

As summer winds down, we are getting ready for our first fall season of sewing classes at The Costume Room, and we're so excited to begin!  After our first semester, we have made a few schedule changes to accommodate kids' busy school year activities.  We will be holding mixed age group sessions on Monday through Thursday after school, and we have added Saturday mornings.  Having worked as a classroom teacher for 15 years, with kids from Pre-K through teen years, I find it a pleasure to work with kids of any age.  Read more, and sign up here.

Working on Shrek, Jr. this summer in Burlington was so much fun!  The kids in the show were in grades 4-8, and most of them follow up with the high school drama department as they get older.  I love working with the same kids and seeing how much they grow in personality and talent from year to year.  And, as their costume designer, I of course see how much they've grown in size!  You can see some pictures from that show in our gallery, here.

Fall has always been my favorite season... the beauty, the crisper air, the excitement of my favorite holidays!  I have always loved school, as a student, a teacher, and now as sewing instructor.  It's a time for new beginnings, fresh starts, meeting new friends and making new projects.  Fun, fun, fun!!!  

Enjoy the last days of summer, and those long days of sunlight!

Fifth grade student wearing her beautiful spring class creation!

Fifth grade student wearing her beautiful spring class creation!

Shrek and the Fairy Tale Characters

Shrek and the Fairy Tale Characters