Dressing up for success: Moses Brown’s theater costume sale keeps neighbors warm

CostumeSaleAfter last spring’s musical, Moses Brown costume designer Lisa Batt-Parente and her students had to face facts: their stock of costumes was taking up too much space. They imagined a farewell role for them: an October costume sale to fuel MB’s popular Halloween pageant, and serve the community, too.

Every day after school – while designing, sewing and fitting costumes for the 30 students in the two plays in rehearsal for November – Lisa and the crew sorted gowns, suits, cloaks, hats, shoes, wings and tails for the sale. They set aside Nick Bottom’s donkey head from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “we couldn’t possibly sell that!” Some items were a mystery: “which show had this gorilla suit with pink bikini top and tutu?” Senior Ananya, sophomore Lex and juniors Gift, Meghan and Emma researched local clothing-based social service organizations, and decided that the money raised would image purchase coats and boots for the Salvation Army’s “Coats for Kids” program. Unsold everyday apparel would go to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Jeanne Jugan Residence, and work-appropriate clothes to Dorcas International Institute’s “Clothing Collaborative,” which provides clothing to low-income adults completing job training and seeking employment.

Neither everyday nor professional, many costumes were destined for Halloween: from Midsummer Night’s Dream, fairies’ wings and Thisbe’s outrageous “female” funnels-top and wig; from Peter Pan, mermaid tails, Nana’s dog costume, the Lost Boys’ knit animal hats; from The Sound of Music, 18 nuns’ habits; from Urinetown, lavatory-themed chorus girls’ hats made of plungers, fans made of toilet brushes. (“No one at the Dollar Store could believe I was buying so many,” Lisa recalled.)

The sale took place on October 23 and 24 in the Atrium of Alumni Hall, a busy crossroads of middle and upper school. Lisa and her crew steered browsing faculty, staff and students image2to the right rack (“I need a costume for Bellatrix Lestrange!”).

Alumni came back to grab costumes they’d worn onstage, her Pink Lady jacket (Grease) and his stone Wall (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Two girls helped their friend try on a nun’s habit. He was a very good sport. As the three mugged for the camera, a voice drifted across the Atrium: “That’s extremely uncomfortable, speaking from experience… that one was mine.” The head of the lower school claimed Urinetown’s “Don’t be the Bunny” suit. The mysterious gorilla suit went home with a teacher, along with two big bagfuls of finds: “My kids are going to be so happy.”

The sale raised $300. “That’s going to buy a lot of coats!” says Lisa. “Our theater program gives voice to so many issues and ideals, much more than what’s on stage or backstage. Everyone benefits: our neighbors who receive the coats and clothing; our students who put their service learning into action with this initiative; and of course, our Halloween pageant.”

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