Open Forum


  • 1.  Costumes

    Posted 11-10-2019 21:22
    What do you do when you give an actress a costume to wear and she doesn’t. In rehearsal she came out in something else. We are doing “ High School Musical” and she is one of the skaters. In the finale I needed her to be in red pants to balance the color on stage. She came out in black and she said she didn’t like red. I am laughing and furious. Walked away. What would you do?

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 2.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 07:40

    I had this happen once also in a production- I told her she either wore the costume I gave her or she doesn't come on stage and I put the understudy on (and even if you have to threaten to put the stage manager in with a script).  

    She needs to realize it's not her choice , she's not the director nor the costume designer for the production

    My favorite shows are when the actor doesn't like what they're wearing because then it changes how their character behaves when on stage. ;)

    Natalie (Saunders) Dommer
    Pasadena Memorial High School
    Pasadena, Texas

  • 3.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 23:41
    I get this question all the time in workshops or PD classes. I always start with it is not the actors decision for any costume, you do not give them that power.  Costume directives come from the director and only the director.  Once this happens, it's time to take the power back.  If the student does not change into the correct costume, then this is what happens.  The costume comes off, a new actor is assigned and thats it.  That game is shut down immediately.
    Harsh, absolutely but to avoid any more conflict in the future, start with a contract and the measuring sheet.   I created one ( a measuring sheet) just for EDTA and I am asked for it all the time.
    On the measuring sheet it has a few questions,
    1. Are you allergic to any thing?
    2. Do you have any physical restrictions that the costumer needs to know?
    Once these questions are answered, the costume goes as planned.  Having an allergy or not being able to wear something around your waist due to a pump are excused reasons for costume changes.  Not "they do not like it."
    I had a girl once hide a pair of vintage gloves that were donated to the show with the intensions of them being returned.  The custodial team found them in a trash can on the third floor of the school.  Game played, and she came out of the costume before she went on stage.  (Always have an understudy and always be prepared for anything)
    The best part about your question is she actually said it to you, and not the student costumer, which is even worse.  Ask any high school student who costumes, they will tell you about 100 reasons why they are told they do not like the costume.
    In theatre, it should be made crystal clear, you are playing a character, just the fact the actor does not understand the way the character is dressed, shows me as a costumer they don't understand their character.  Simple.
    Hand the role to some one who does understand it.
    Good luck and I know its not easy,  hopefully it will be a learning lesson for the actor and everyone watching thinking they can do it as well.

    Shirlee Idzakovich
    Costume Designer, NYC
    Costuming/ Fashion Editor
    Master Class, Professional Development,
    Guest Lecturer
    The Costumer's Education FB group
    Model Curriculum Framework Project EDTA, NEA/ National Theatre Standards

  • 4.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 08:56
    My students know up front- They where what they are given or they do not go on stage.  I have pulled an actress at dress rehearsal, whose mother decided to inform me that she would not be wearing the "ugly" costume I gave her, and put my assistant stage manager in her place.

    Myndee Fleury Washington

    Music & Drama Teacher

    Union Park Charter Academy

    "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you EVERYWHERE"- Albert Einstein

  • 5.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 08:58
    I wish I could say I hadn't endured similar issues from time to time! Do you have a show contract that outlines following the rules and wearing the costumes, wigs, accessories you are provided? If so, presumably the student and parents signed it. If not, you may consider this option in the future.

    When this has happened, I always begin with a calm, life lesson discussion about how we may not like all the rules of a company we work for, dress code, etc. We have a choice to follow or not participate. If this is a kid that sees him/herself performing in the future, you may discuss the hard and fast rule of not angering the costumer! You wear what you are told and you say, "Thank you!" and you learn to love it - or else you're fired or perhaps never cast again.

    When that doesn't work, is there a back up that can take her place? I'd cut her from the number. Harsh? Maybe. But what would happen in the real world. If the teachable moment has no impact, the show must go on and you are the director.

    Again, I've tried all of these strategies over 25 plus years. Sometimes I succeed in getting through and sometimes I've failed. I try to stick to my guns and remain consistent in applying consequences.

    I hope the student finds some wisdom and maturity. Break a leg in your production.

    William J. Eyerly, Ph. D, Ed. D
    Director of Theatre K-12
    The Village School of Naples
    Executive Director
    Gainesville Association for the Creative Arts
    Fort Myers, FL

  • 6.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 09:06
    I would have a side conversation about her commitment to the show.  She is insulting the design team by not complying  to their costume design.  I have pulled a student from a number because they spoke poorly of a costume design, it only took one and I haven't had the problem again.   I hope this works, the tough part is if they are a senior and they don't care about future shows.

    Kendra Knoblock
    Teacher - Director
    Rome0 MI

  • 7.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 09:48
    Tell her to either come out as directed or you will put someone else out there who will do as directed.  It's not HER on the stage, it's her character, so what SHE likes is irrelevant.

    Amy MacCord
    Musical Theatre Teacher
    Hawthorne FL

  • 8.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 10:27
    This is what I would say in this situation.  I have said some version of this many times.

    "What you like is immaterial.  I am the director and costume designer.  As the director, I have determined that this is what your character needs to wear to balance the stage picture colorwise.  As the costume designer, I have decided your character likes red.  Wear the red pants if you want to be in this scene."

    C. J. Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC

  • 9.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 12:29
    One of the very first rules of theatre every one of my students hears, like never be late for rehearsal, is "you wear what we give you." This also applies to make-up and hair. It's even stated in the parent letter/contract that they sign.
    What you describe is blatant insubordination. I would have immediately thrown her out of the show.


  • 10.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 13:47
    Thank you all for great suggestions!
    Some of you mentioned a contract you have with the actors and parents. Do any of you have a copy to share?

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 11.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-11-2019 21:03
    I would have a talk with her and tell her that the director and costume designer have the final say in costumes. If she is interested going into acting as a profession she needs to learn that now!!!!   My daughter was my costume designer and no one ever argued with her!! The only time a change is made at an actors request is if it doesn't fit or they can't do the movement they need to do.  End of story.

    Cathy Archer
    Rutland VT

  • 12.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-12-2019 08:47
    Of course this is not acceptable.  In order to teach proper theatre etiquette, you cannot allow any actor to decide what costume they will wear.  Sounds like it is time for an important discussion with this performer.  For one thing, this actress is NOT playing herself, so her personal likes and dislikes are not important in terms of the musical. She is one of many characters on stage, and she needs to work positively in the collaborative art form. The sets, lights, props, costumes, makeup and hair, as well as sound etc. all are working together to communicate the story to the audience.  Decisions have been made for this purpose, and everyone has to be onboard and work agreeably toward this one important goal.

    Professionals can actually lose pay for an infringement like this. Let her know how serious this is.  Students are not getting paid, but she is risking being pulled from the show (of course you have to be willing to follow through on this). She is definitely risking being cast in future productions, because you should think twice before casting her in future.

    I wish you much luck in straightening out this young performer.  I certainly hope she becomes a team player, for the sake of the production.  However, if she does not, I would remove her for the sake of the entire theatre program.  It will send a very strong message to the rest of the students, and one you may never have to follow through on again.

    Valerie Farschman, Drama Director
    Amherst Junior High
    Amherst, Ohio

  • 13.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-12-2019 09:27
    I once had a mother come and tell me that her son wouldn't wear the assigned costume. He was playing a servant in Romeo and Juliet and his costume in the party scene wasn't as nice as the other characters.

    I responded, "I'm sorry you are choosing to withdraw your son from the production."

    "What?! I didn't say that."

    "You just told me that he wouldn't wear the costume, so he can't go on."

    That was the end of the discussion. He wore the costume and went on to have a great time in the show. I didn't hear anything from her again.

    Robert Smith
    VA Co-Chapter Director
    Centreville VA

  • 14.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-12-2019 10:42
    All of these answers are good. I also say something to the effect of..."Thanks for volunteering to be our costume manager for the next show."​

    Ellen Di Filippo
    Tracy CA

  • 15.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-12-2019 11:00
    Ellen that is perfect!

  • 16.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-16-2019 00:58
    Edited by Ginny Butsch 11-18-2019 09:38
    I’ve had this trouble several times. Once 4 years ago, on opening night, when a kid had a meltdown because she didn’t like her poofy dress. This year a plus size girl came out in a shirt that was too tight and a short skirt that was unflattering, both of which her mom bought. I gave her a different skirt & top which she didn’t wear at dress rehearsal and I stopped the show & asked her where her costume was & she replied, “my mom said I should wear this”. I had to refrain from asking if her mom had eyes so instead I asked, “is your mom the director?”, when she said “no”, I continued with, “who is the director?”, “you”. My reply, “yes, I am the director and I am telling you that you are NOT wearing that on my stage”.
    I’m smart enough to know that the hats, shirts, dresses that go missing before Show Night are a rebellion.

    Maria Stadtmueller
    Kendall Park, NJ

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 17.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-17-2019 10:09
    There’s two steps to this: 1. Ask your actor why they don’t feel comfortable in the outfit you’ve provided. Sometimes it really is a legitimate concern and it helps if they feel they’re being heard. If your actor feels uncomfortable onstage, it will impact their performance. 2. When (9 times out of 10) their response has to do with them personally not liking it, you remind them that it isn’t supposed to be an outfit that he/she the actor would wear. It’s a costume that their character would wear. They need to show you that they can be a mature actor and do what’s best for the show if they want to continue in the show and your program.

    Mr. Benjamin Cossitor
    Instructor of English/Drama
    Altoona Area High School
    1415 6th Ave
    Altoona, PA 16602
    (814) 327-9076

  • 18.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-18-2019 04:48
    As an actor and director I so totally, 100 percent agree with this. We at least need to know why the student is struggling with their costume. I know as an actor, my performance is negatively impacted if I am not comfortable with my costume for some reason which has happened.

    I am not a big fan of "you do this because I am in charge and I say so." That seems to fly in the face of the collaborative spirit good theatre requires. Further, I will go a long way to avoid calling it "my stage" because it does not belong to me -- I share it with many people including the student actors. 

    Finally. -- and please take this in the most constructive way possible, as it is intended -- I would ask myself why the student with the "too tight" costume needs to be identified in this situation as "plus size." As a large fellow myself, I am well aware of the body issues and the pervasive biases associated with carrying extra weight. However, any student can wear a costume that is "too tight" and I am wondering if this costume is so simply because this student is larger than others. I have worked with directors who refuse to let plus size actors wear costumes that actually fit and instead insist they wear over-size clothes that look rather like tents. It is a humiliating situation -- I know. Costumes and clothes in general are a constant struggle for people like me with body issues.

    In the end, these students may be being difficult for no good reason but they at least deserve to be heard. These are my two cents.

  • 19.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-18-2019 07:38
    Edited by William Eyerly 11-18-2019 07:40
    Mark makes an excellent point. Ill-fitting costumes should be addressed. The actor should let the director know immediately if there is an issue (too tight, too loose). Those things can be rectified. I am also always sensitive to fabric allergies, latex allergies, and other medical considerations.

    However, the issue at hand with this particular student was the color and she came out dressed in something completely different. IMHO, they are not dressing themselves for everyday life. They are dressing for the character. Costumes are an external. The actor's job is to master the character internally and convey it through physical action and the words of the script. The director/costumers style and color choices are not up for debate by the student/actor.  Yes, theatre is the ultimate collaborative art. The student made an independent (not collaborative) choice to defy the director with no legitimate comfort, medical, or safety concern. That is unacceptable in my view.

    William J. Eyerly, Ph. D, Ed. D
    Director of Theatre K-12
    The Village School of Naples
    Executive Director
    Gainesville Association for the Creative Arts
    Fort Myers, FL

  • 20.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-18-2019 08:40
    Hopefully, everyone is talking character analysis, etc. about why their character dresses they way they should.  Actors also don't always have an idea of color palette and design style unless they have asked the costume designer or director. This is a great chance for conversation with the actor (as many have said) about why this is what the "character" would wear and it's not about what "you" would wear.

    Eventually the kids will learn to trust your/costume designer's choices.  They are young and just need reaffirmation that they don't get to make all of the choices unless this is a shared decision (I have given students this task before and they have to justify every step and it can be EXTREMELY successful).

    Natalie (Saunders) Dommer
    Pasadena Memorial High School
    Pasadena, Texas

  • 21.  RE: Costumes

    Posted 11-18-2019 09:39
    Edited by Ginny Butsch 11-18-2019 09:39
    Full disclosure: I too am a big girl. No offense taken. I was simply trying to make the point that as a plus size myself, I know that ill-fitting, tight clothes tend to show bulges that don’t look good on the stage, something a smaller girl wouldn’t have to worry about when wearing something too tight. I was mortified for the kid and didn’t want her to be made fun of.

    Sent from my iPhone