Playhouse costumes folks

The change from Dr. Henry Jekyll to Mr. Hyde was almost as frightening as the change of an Oak Harbor Naval Hospital pediatrician, Mark Ralston, to a nun — a flying nun.

Ralston, who was trying on costumes that Whidbey Playhouse Workshop is renting for Halloween, decided on the nun costume but quickly found he had no idea how to don a nun’s habit. But with a little help with the under, over, outerwear and accessories, however, he pulled it off as best a man can.

This Halloween, like several before it, Whidbey Playhouse has opened its costumes to the public for rentals. They are open one more day for rentals, Saturday, Oct. 30, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On this particular evening, however, the changes were happening quickly. In marched a young Navy man, out marched a young knight. In sauntered an Oak Harbor man, with an Oak Harbor girl on his arm, and out sauntered Zorro, with a cancan girl on his. In strolled a young woman, and out strolled Bo-peep. The metamorphosis evolved with the help of costumes and the expertise of Ken Grigsby, Sheila Ryan and Kay Williamson, all part of the Whidbey Playhouse troupe.

One off their remodeled characters was Oak Harbor resident Daniel Soriano.

“Dressing up, you get to be a fool and not care what other people think,” Soriano said. “It’s a once a year thing. Last year, I dressed up like a girl. It was fun.”

This year for Halloween, Soriano decided to go a little more masculine and dress up as an armor-bearing knight. The only thing he said he was worried about was the armor messing up his dancing groove, when he goes clubbing in Canada on Halloween night.

Ken Grigsby, a play producer at the Whidbey Playhouse, laughs at Soriano’s trivial fears and advises him not to leave his costume or armor lying about in a club, as then he would then have to purchase it.

Grigsby said he enjoys costumes because they help develop a character. For plays, he said it is the costuming that really helps put the actor into the character the actors are playing ... into the time era, the feeling, into their shoes.

He is convinced dressing up for Halloween is no different. It helps transport someone into another character.

“It’s fun meeting people and watching adults play dress-up,” Grigsby said. “I enjoy helping people find what they like and can have fun with.”

Sheila Ryan, a board member for the Whidbey Playhouse, and a co-director of operations, said she loves Halloween. “Love” here is not used lightly. She liked the holiday so much that she decided to get married on Halloween, and this Oct. 31, she and her husband will celebrate their 10th anniversary. Ryan said she especially enjoys the dress-up part of Halloween.

“I’ve always liked dressing up, and the less people can recognize me the better,” she said.

She also enjoys helping other discover the fun of dress-up -- from silly baby outfits to classic time pieces, she likes it all. Her favorite part of costuming people is imagining what era, character or story they would look good in, and convincing them to try it.

Kay Williamson, who costumes plays at the playhouse, said costuming for Halloween becomes a creativity and imagination challenge, because people come in not knowing what to expect, or what they want to dress as, and then, with a little help, they are transformed into a whole new character.

The Playhouse Workshop has costumes from medieval to flapper era, Egypt to gypsy. They have wigs, faces, hats, weapons, and accessories. Walking through the workshop and costume rows, eyes capture colors, textures and materials that conjure up the same flare and animation as movies, carnivals and circuses, intermixed with a touch of the domestic and antique.

Williamson wanders around the workshop between costuming people and fetching articles to accessorize them. She reaches out and touches different costumes here and there, remembering the plays they were for or which ones she had worn. For her, costumes are an aspect of life.

For most other people, however, they get only Halloween to waltz around incognito and discover the fun of costumes.

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