Monday, February 17, 2014

Unsung Hero - Sara

Sara Honsowetz is the most hard working, tireless, generous, kind and extraordinary person I know.  She has been part of the Saline Area Players for about 10 years onstage in Cooking with Gus, Arsenic and Old Lace, Wizard of Oz, and You Can’t Take it With You, and behind the stage as the producer for many a show, including some gigantic ones like Gypsy and The Sound of Music. Her other backstage exploits include helping with props, board member (currently VP) and proofreading. She is amazing at selling ads and has the ability to talk people into all kinds of things and barter like crazy. You’d think that would be enough, but one of her greatest contributions to Saline Area Players is that of COSTUMER! Sara organizes our costume storage, rents costumes out, makes new finds and has costumed numerous shows. In the winter, she brings a shovel to the unit and shovels her way in to get to the costumes.
Sara holding up a Willy Wonka costume

You might hear her say “Costumer coming… beware!” as she heads to the dressing rooms. There is no time to waste as she brings in costume after costume for cast members to try on.  When Sara is costuming a show, her home turns into the costume shop.  Her living room is graced with a costume rack, her daughter’s bedroom is filled with clothes, and her car is stuffed to the gills.  She takes the job seriously and often works morning to night.

What costumes is she the most proud?  She loves the oompa loompa costumes she created for last year’s production of Willy Wonka.  She found tie dye overalls for all the loompas and then had each of them choose a color and wear matching socks, shirts, shoes, and tassles on their hats.  Another triumph was creating Electra’s costume in Gypsy. The character is a stripper with an “electrical” costume.  She bought Christmas ornaments that would light up and had another SAP member wire a battery pack to them.  Then she sewed them to the costume and when the battery was turned on, the lights would pop on in rotation.  And then there was Willy Wonka’s hat.  She took a regular top hat and made a pattern of a hat that would go over it.  Of course it was purple.  AND, she found sparkly material with which to trim it.

From Cooking with Gus
Then there is the search for the right costume and the “finds” – driving around looking for things that could work for a particular show.  For example during Willy Wonka, she felt like she drove around the world seeking just the right costume piece. During one week alone she drove 977 miles in search of costumes, traveling from one thrift store to another from Saline to Detroit to Fenton.  And the following week...she went to Bay City where she found the perfect jacket for "Ms TeaVee”!   Another favorite “find” was not a costume, but what we fondly think of as the “Grandpa” picture.  It is a vintage portrait of a stern-looking elderly man with a long white beard that she found for “Arsenic and Old Lace” since they referred to “grandpa” in the show.  Later, this same picture ended up in the “Went with the Wind” sketch in the Carol Burnett Show.
She is currently costuming Annie for SHS and recently told me how she managed to get 6 maid costumes.  She went to Fantasy Attic, a costume store in Ypsilanti that was going out of business (which is, incidentally, a big loss to the theater community as they were the “place to go” for costumes locally).  Anyway, she bought one maid costume but didn’t buy all 6 until she was sure they would be okayed by the director.  Once she got the okay, she called back only to find that they had already moved out.  Not to be undone, Sara drove to the store, found the phone number for the leasing agent, called them and asked them to call the owners of Fantasy Attic.  She was able to reach them and bought the other 5 maid costumes!  Way to go, Sara.  Another costume coup for Annie is that a few years ago she put a dress in our costume supply from a family member, knowing it would be useful someday.  Success! It is a perfect choice for the character of Grace in Annie.  Sara has a keen eye for what may come in handy.

In addition to creating and finding, another part of costuming is to revamp an old costume into a new one.  For example, she found the old wedding gown that eventually turned into a priest’s robe for The Sound of Music.  And, she turned another wedding dress into a bridesmaid dress.  And then there was the challenge of “hiding” the fact that a lead actress was actually pregnant, which required some last minute costume choices.  (As an aside, I’ve now been in two plays where backstage I helped an actress who in real life is pregnant, get into a wedding dress to go out onstage).  Even costumes that belong to Sara’s family are appropriated for shows, like the lederhosen that she bought for her husband that ended up in SAP’s production of Silent Night this past December.
Aunt Martha

One of her favorite finds is the vintage velvet cape that she found and wore during SAP’s Arsenic and Old Lace in which she played Aunt Martha.  And, she was able to use it again during our gala performance last year.

Sara does all this costuming with panache.  She loves making people look good on stage, has incredible patience, and is sensitive to her cast members, finding costumes that will make them comfortable and happy to be on stage.  If you want to see some of her work, come out and see Saline High School’s production of Annie February 21-22. 
Aunt Martha in Arsenic and Old Lace
Penelope Sycamore in You Can't Take it With You

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