Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I must have a thing for fat-suits

A couple years ago I worked at a newspaper in our small college town, for the classified section. Our office was very into Halloween, and that year our department of about seven people decided to dress as the seven deadly sins. Because I was the smallest person and the least self-conscious, I volunteered to go as "Gluttony". I was a BIG hit, in more ways than one.

pose 3

I borrowed the wig and bought the biggest shirt and jumper I could find at Goodwill. For the fat suit I got two pairs of XL panty hose, put one on like pants and cut a slit in the crotch of the other and put it on like a shirt. I then stuffed them with essentially every piece of lightweight clothing I had. Et voila.

pose 1

I actually can't tell you what was more fun -- going to the Halloween party at my friend's house (where I met several people for the very first time, who I then later had to re-meet because no one recognized me,) or getting to work all day in my get-up. The entire day was tinged with absurdity because I had to sound so normal on the phone. I volunteered to fax everyone's paperwork, and to get people things from the break room just for the pure joy of being a spectacle. I had to readjust my chair so that I could fit under the desk, and my headset kept getting stuck in my hair.

The following year Anthony and I decided to go to a party as Ann Coulter and Michael Moore (respectively). Anthony wore a striking red dress and some surprisingly comfortable high heals that, (I note with great interest,) he still has tucked away in a drawer. To fill his bra he got those single-serving pocket-shots, and over the course of the evening he would give them away coquettishly to people. My costume was not as successful as Gluttony, mostly because I couldn't find a stubbly beard in time. But it was the same fat-suit formula over jean shorts and a plaid flannel shirt, topped with a baseball cap. Easy. For some reason I have no pictures of us from that party and I know it makes you weep.

Today I went to a building just south of OMSI to be fitted for another fat-suit, this time to be an extra in the Portland Opera's production of Hansel and Gretel.

The building is just off the river, and I sort of recognized it from the time I biked along the Springwater Corridor. Evidently it used to house a TV station which makes sense, somehow, as you walk along the cramped hallways and push through the double doors. The sewing room was filled with a lot of delightful things I didn't get to examine for too long -- I noticed the fish's head, and got a sense of LOTS of work happening (all spools and dressmaker dummies and cloth remnants) -- but it also had very cheerful seamstresses peeking out from closets or behind sewing machines, waving and generally being very welcoming to a Ms. Nobody like me. I ducked into a room with a curtain and a double mirror, stood on an X marked in tape on the floor, and followed directions.

pantless with strangers

I will be a chef, one of a dozen. Our costumes are a little different than what you see on the website there, but they do involve a creepy head that fits over mine (I have a mesh screen in the mask's forehead to look through). I also have these fantastic Styrofoam wings that have to be attached via a harness and it's a very complicated affair. I had two different people helping me with my costume today in a double-mirrored room, one person making adjustment notes in a little notebook. I've never been an extra with them before, and I don't know how to take my own measurements, so my file was fairly bare. After we finished the fitting they got a tape measure out and recorded every measurement that I think can be recorded. All of my stats are in a little file somewhere, as well as a picture of me both in my chef costume and my regular clothes.

I am evidently in just one scene, a dream sequence, but I know it will involve props that will be scaled-up to make us (and the leads) look smaller. Food is involved, we will be carrying trays of stuff around. Great attention was placed on the fact that my gloves were a bit big, and I was assured that if anything didn't feel quite right it could be adjusted. I may be just a volunteer, and I may have never met any of these people before, never seen an opera, and scarcely know the storyline (in the context of the production), but seems that as far as anyone in the costume department is concerned, I am one of the cast.

I like doing new things in the fall, it is reminiscent of started a class in the new school year.