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‘Our Town’ gets custom costumes

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Chris Chapman is all about craftmanship.

Most often, her distinguished attention to detail is displayed in her leather-bonded furniture and home accessories. This week, Chapman’s creativity is personified in the wardrobe of the “Our Town” cast that stars in the Waldorf School benefit production.

“The whole thing is more like a canvas and an art project than just costuming,” she said. “These are more like well-made clothing than costumes. That translates on stage, even though people aren’t really conscious of it.”



As the curtain rose on Wednesday’s opening of “Our Town” at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Chris Chapman said she felt a sense of pride for her accomplishment. She has helped with wardrobe for previous plays at the Waldorf, but like the caliber of the “Our Town” production.

“This is really my first professional costuming job for community theatre,” she said. “Having my clothes on stage at the Wheeler has been an honor. It is a wonderful feeling.”



Chapman said she enjoyed the teamwork and the camaraderie involved with working behind the scenes of a major production.

“I liked doing the costumes because with my furniture design, 95 percent of the work I do alone,” she said. “This was a beautiful, interactive teamwork process. Even with the actors, I can help them rise up by making beautiful clothes. Like the producer said, ‘You’ve clothed the whole town.'”

She also received applause from the play’s director, Wendy Moore.

“The best compliment I got was from the director a few days before the show,” Chapman said. “She didn’t say it directly to me, but she said it to the actors. She said, ‘You all look and feel like you’re real people in this town, in the turn-of-the-century.'”

“Our Town,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning three-act play by Thornton Wilder, takes place in a New Hampshire town from 1901-1913. Chapman said she enjoyed challenging her creativity with clothing from an era not known for frills.

“A lot of the costuming in this play was subtle,” she said. “It was newspaper boys and the milkman and the doctor who just delivered twins. I felt like my costumes were believable, the costumes didn’t stick out, and the costumes worked with the actors.”

Chapman’s attention to detail was dedicated to each individual actor in the play. She estimates she spent 400 hours in “a couple months” dressing 25 actors.

“It involved several months that included research. I make my own patterns, I start from scratch,” she said. “Then I go shop for fabrics ” that’s a huge part of it. Also, whenever anyone does costuming, they make things, buy things, rent things ” I’ve done some of all of that. I look for that time period and I fill in the holes with nicely appointed details like gloves and ascots.”

Chapman said although the dress is different from today’s style of clothing, the play’s message is classic.

“It’s just the integrity of the play and the timeliness of the play, compared to how the world is now,” she said. “We have all choices to not buy into the rat race. A better quality of life ” that’s what the play is trying to wake up to. It mattered 100 years ago and it still matters today.”

“Our Town” takes place at 6:30 p.m. today and Saturday at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork. Tickets are $10 for children and seniors and $15 for adults and are available at the school, The Lift coffee shop in Carbondale at the Mountain Peddler in Glenwood Springs. For more information, call 963-1960.

Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601

aclark@postindependent.com


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