Monday [or, A Ham’s Work Is Never Done]

This article is by guest author, Jessica Pautler, Geva’s resident Costume Crafts Artist. Costume Crafts are the non-clothing costume pieces, including neckwear, shoes, hats, jewelry & other accessories, as well as armor, helmets, & wings. Additionally the Costume Crafts include fabric modification, such as dyeing, painting, & distressing; and the use of non-fabric materials, such as leather, foam, thermoplastics, felts, straw, and metal.

Mondays can be special days in professional theatre. Variously referred to Dead Day, Equity Day Off, and Notes Monday, it is a day without performances – sometimes the only day in a week without any that a theatre has. For the cast, crew, and front-of-house personnel who run shows, it is a day off. And for those of us who do not, it is an opportunity to do maintenance and repairs that do not fit into a show’s daily schedule.

Ham-Process 1
Ham being built out of thermoplastic felt

So the Monday after To Kill a Mockingbird’s opening finds me returning to the Ham. Scout’s costume, which [spoiler alter] has to withstand a fight scene and also a fight call* for every performance, was showing some weakness after the long dress rehearsal and preview process. The base structure of the Ham is a thick thermoplastic felt called FuzzForm, which stiffens and holds a shape when heated. Over the course of the build process – construct, fit, alter, rehearse, alter, rehearse, alter, finish – the bottom of the Ham became increasingly curved in, producing a better shape more in line with the vision of designer JohnHaldoupis and director Mark Cuddy.

Ham being built out of thermoplastic felt

That concave curve at the bottom of the Ham was not holding up as well as the rest of the piece. To make sure that it would withstand the rest of the 41-show run, I first peeled back the Ham’s covering of painted, stiffened muslin. I attached pieces of thin thermoplastic sheeting [which becomes sticky and moldable when heated] to reinforce the bottom 4” of the Ham. I then used a stiffening adhesive product called Sculpt Or Coat to reattach the pulled-back muslin and then to attach new muslin strips to cover the repaired area. Finally I applied layers of watered paint to the sealed muslin, to blend the reinforced area into the rest of the all-ready painted Ham.

Now Scout’s Ham is ready for the next four weeks and beyond.

[More information on the Ham’s construction is available on display in the Lobby of Geva Theatre Center. And, of course, if you want to see the finished product, you’ll have to see it onstage!]

*a short rehearsal of a fight scene before a performance


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