Theater Scene from AIDA
Albany, New York’s Patricia Casey, is a senior advisor for the State Boards at Excelsior College’s School of Nursing. For the past 15 years, she has volunteered her organizational skills in theater productions at Schenectady Light Opera Company (SLOC), which produces four to five musicals per year. SLOC is celebrating their 78th year this season. Casey works primarily in maintaining the costumes for the company and during one show each year designs and makes the costumes for that production.
Excelsior Life: How did you get involved with the Schenectady Light Opera Company?
Casey: When I started working at Excelsior, my co-worker, Sue Culver, suggested I volunteer to help with alterations because I can sew. What started as helping out a little, quickly graduated to assisting in the costume measuring, “building” (making costumes) and assembling pieces for a show.
Scene from Ruthless
Scene from Sullivan and Gilbert
Excelsior Life: After spending time in costume and wardrobe, did you get into other areas of production? Casey: No, I was “promoted” to costume designer and found that this is where my talent was most useful.
Excelsior Life: As someone who works in higher education, what have you learned from volunteering in productions? Casey: I learned from several talented people, it takes more organizational skills than sewing skills to get a show together.
You need to collaborate with the director, choreographer and actors to see what their “vision” for the show is, research past productions and clothing of a period, and determine what we already have in our collection. There are also fittings, alterations, organizing the building of costumes and documenting, for each actor, what scenes and costumes they need and how fast they need to change.
Photo: Fandango Dance Hall girls – Sweet Charity
Excelsior Life: What are some of the challenges you have witnessed with actors and costuming? Casey: Actors need to be able to sing and dance in the costumes and this presents a challenge for musical theater. Some actors do not move well in dance sequences in costume so there is a need to re-do designs.
Excelsior Life: Do the size of productions you work on vary? Casey: I have worked on shows with as few as four actors and up to 35 actors. I also worked with shows at Albany Civic Theater and Schenectady Civic Players.
Sailors from Sweet Charity
Excelsior Life: I understand you have been in charge of the entire costume collection for the company. Where did you learn how to organize costumes on this scale? Casey: Being the Costume Shop Curator is practically a part-time job. We have thousands of costume pieces that need to be kept organized. I inventory costumes loaned to other companies and make sure they are returned. I help designers find costumes, keep the shop clean, and organize new pieces. I learned by observing from costume shop folks with other theater companies. We are fortunate at SLOC to have several very talented and experienced costume designers who are were very willing to guide me.
Excelsior Life: What would someone reading this be surprised to learn about you and your passion? Casey: Well, I grew up listening to Broadway musical albums and memorized many show tunes by the time I was in high school glee club. I have always loved the singing and dancing of live musical theater and this is my way of being a part of it.
Excelsior Life: How can others get involved in stage production? Casey: Check for opportunities in your local community. We are fortunate to have a great variety of theater groups, some of which focus on musical theater like us, in the Capital Region (NY). We are always looking for volunteers for ushers, stage hands, lighting and sound work, costumes, set design and construction, choreography, etc. If anyone is interested they can contact us at SLOC Musical Theater.