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An ode to the rumba

posted by Amy Bobeda on Wed, Sep 28, 2011
in Costume shop , Our shows

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In the production departments, we have to learn to let go of our work. Many artisans at Berkeley Rep are artists outside the gates of our Harrison St. and Addison St. campuses, but here, as artisans we have to embrace what most artists fear: our hard work may never see the light of day. Some departments are used to this; the scenic painting folks work tirelessly to paint the steel framing on the backside of scenery that will never be seen by anyone beyond stage crew.


Change is particularly common on world premieres of shows that have had limited workshop time. Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup is a perfect example.

When the costume shop began production, we began reconstructing a beautiful black-and-white gown for a rumba number. It was a snow storm of rhinestones, spandex, and about 30 yards of sheer and opaque black-and-white taffeta ruffles. Needless to say, it was, as many of our garments are, a challenging by enjoyable execution process.

Alas, no Berkeley Rep audience member will ever gaze upon the rumba dress, because the number was cut from the show.

Many people may read this and think “OMG weren’t you guys mad!? You made so many ruffles!” But here is the kicker: we are just here to make the beautiful things, it isn’t up to us what happens with them next, and there is something incredibly freeing about that feeling.

Personally, I loved the rumba dress. It was sparkly. It was outrageous. It looked darn good on Ms. Moreno, and hopefully its ruffles will one day be seen by eyes other than those of the costume department. Am I sad to see it go? Sure. But, the beautiful thing about costumes is that one day, the rumba dress will come out of the closet again.

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