Carole Shorenstein Hays gives us some background for these behind-the-scenes photos of her haute DIY day at the Curran, when costume designer Machine Dazzle outfitted her with flotsam and jetsam and je ne sais quoi.
During my childhood in San Francisco the DIY movement to me meant playing with my sister, Joan, and her tinker toys or assembling my own erector set or helping my brother, Dougie, put together his model airplanes. I would stage theatrical productions in our living room of the musicals I loved and make Dougie and Joan play the parts I didn’t want to play, as I put the cast albums of musicals on our parents’ stereo. My favorite DIY moments were devising costumes for those musicals. I’d fashion the costumes from the detritus around our house - old curtains, crayoned cardboard, my mother’s curiously colored blouses with buttons missing and collars frayed, unmatched socks forlornly left alone in their need of darning, even my father’s discarded cravat since he was not the kind of man to be seen wearing such a “darn godawful thing” when someone once deigned to give him one.
My father would often take my mother, Joan, and me to the Curran during my childhood. We got to get all dressed up... I just thought how lucky I was to be inside such a beautiful palace and how impressed I was by everyone being so dressed up, so stylish, so happy.
But I was the kind of kid who knew exactly what such a darn godawful thing was, a kid who knew how to pronounce “cravat” when Dougie and Joan asked what I had in my hand when I was busy creating a costume for myself with it. I instinctively knew my daddy’s discarded cravat could be repurposed as a crazy little South Seas sash, as I sashayed to Rodgers and Hammerstein and sang about washing that man right out of my hair long before any man had taken up residence in such a place in my life. The darned in need of darning forlornly left alone — isn’t that an apt description of so many of us who found escape and comfort early on in the magic of the theatre — and, yes, still do.
My father would often take my mother, Joan, and me to the Curran during my childhood but Dougie was still too little to tag along. We got to get all dressed up in clothes that were not made from discarded items conjured from my imagination. The first show I can remember seeing was THE MUSIC MAN with Robert Preston. When the song “Seventy-Six Trombones” began to soar inside the Curran, it made made me think of Dougie back home and how we pretended to be our own little marching band sometimes in our neighborhood. He would mimic beating a military drum and I would twirl my baton. But most of all I just thought how lucky I was to be inside such a beautiful palace of a place and how impressed I was by everyone being so dressed up, so stylish, so happy. I also remember the calm that came over me. I was ten years old.
I experienced a rush of indescribable joy when Machine Dazzle renovated me in his own unique way. Machine roamed the theatre finding the flotsam and jetsam left behind by decades of the Curran’s touring shows and concerts and scenic designers and actors. It was ghostly garbage he was bringing back to life.
After that first visit to the Curran, I would put on my best party dress and take the bus downtown all by myself. I would get off the bus and look at the windows at I. Magnin as I roamed around and imagine myself adorned in the grand gowns worn by the mannequins. My parents asked no questions. As I was strolling down Geary Street one Saturday, I happened upon the Curran again at an intermission of a matinee and, as that ten-year-old, I certainly didn’t realize I needed a ticket. I looked so adorable that everyone welcomed me and I just walked right in. That’s what I remember more than anything: feeling welcome. I scampered up to the balcony and was mesmerized by the Curran’s chandelier, all 4,000 pounds of it and its 300 bulbs. I stood there wondering what kind of costume I could fashion from its fruit-shaped crystals for my next staged musical in our living room. I remember the thunderous applause at the end of the show I walked into that day, even though I don’t recall the show itself. And I recall that sense of belonging once again as a member of the audience and that je ne sais quoi that came rushing over me.
I experienced some of that same rush of indescribable joy this past spring when I met the brilliant costume designer Machine Dazzle at the Curran during its renovation, and allowed him to renovate me in his own unique way. I call him peerless and fearless in his ability to find the beauty in the discarded and refashion it into art. He darns the darned. Machine roamed the theatre finding the flotsam and jetsam left behind by decades of the Curran’s touring shows and concerts and scenic designers and actors. It was ghostly garbage he was bringing back to life. He also took the rubbish from the Curran’s renovation — debris of more recent vintage — and combined it with the older bits of its past strewn about to refurbish it all into a kind of DIY haute couture.
Dressing trashy has never been less, costumed in light gels and blueprints and curtains and yards of plastic made pleasing — even ravishing — to the eye. My fantasy was finally coming true.
Dressing trashy has never been less so as he costumed me in light gels and blueprints and curtains and yards of plastic he made pleasing — even ravishing — to the eye. Indeed, I felt again like that little girl longing once upon a time to wear those gowns in the I. Magnin windows I saw on all those mannequins. My fantasy was finally coming true. Here are some photos from that dazzling day. I wish Joan and Dougie had been here to see it.