BACKSTAGE PASS: Clothes force

 

BACKSTAGE PASS: Clothes force

 

Date: January 4, 2012
by: Heidi Kurpiela | A&E Editor

 
 

 

Susan Angermann is unflappable. There’s really no other word for it.

If you walk past the costume shop at Florida Studio Theatre, chances are you’ll catch Angermann up to her elbows in fabric, listening to Michael Buble, Astor Piazzolla or George Gershwin.

Sometimes she cranks The Black Eyed Peas.

“It depends on the taste of the interns and what the volunteers will tolerate,” Angermann says. “You’ve got to have fun in here. If it’s not fun, nobody is interested.”

What you probably won’t see is Angermann flustered.

If doing back-to-back shows that each require 40 costume changes — “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” followed by “The 39 Steps” — doesn’t frazzle her, nothing will.

“I work well under pressure,” Angermann says. “I have a lot of patience. Interruptions and questions don’t bother me. I’m good at problem solving, and I like to take shortcuts.”

For three years Angermann has worked as FST’s costume shop manager. The position has made her the department’s unofficial den mother.

With ease and grace, she juggles a laundry list of responsibilities, including shopping, ordering and designing the company’s cabaret costumes, as well as running fittings and supervising costume production for the theater’s main stage shows.

“It’s my job to get the designs from the designer to the stage,” Angermann says. “The thing I love most is working with a variety of people. The clothes are just secondary.”

To build the wardrobe for a show, Angermann will scour the Internet, local thrift stores and high-end department stores. She’s just as likely to hit up Goodwill as she is Saks, although in her personal life she rarely browses the aisles of used clothing stores.

“I don’t thrift-store shop for fun,” she says. “The thrill of the bargain doesn’t do it for me. It’s more the challenge that thrills me … when I’m on a mission to find a particular item.”

One of her most challenging missions was finding the right kind of fringe for the costumes in this summer’s country music comedy, “Cowgirls.”

When shopping proved futile, Angermann resorted to cutting long strips of white vinyl, which she sewed in varying lengths to a red vest, shirt and skirt.

The outfits were time-consuming, but when she was finished they were exactly what Angermann had envisioned: appropriately hokey.

“When people come to see a show, they shouldn’t think about the work that goes on behind the scenes,” she says. “They should just experience it. It should be seamless.”

A soft-spoken costume designer with a Southern accent, Angermann learned to sew out of necessity. As a young girl, she danced with a small ballet company in South Carolina. When the company had no money to buy costumes, she and her fellow ballerinas would sew their own tutus, a chore that sparked an interest in the young dancer.

After graduating from high school, Angermann went on to study at the French Fashion Academy in New York, where, in addition to dressmaking classes, she studied costume design as well.

For seven years she worked as a freelance designer for small theater and opera companies in New York. The gig led to several film and television projects, namely after-school specials and a few B-rated horror movies.

“Have you ever heard of ‘Toxic Avenger?’” Angermann asks.

No, actually.

A quick Google search reveals that the film was a 1984 campy horror flick that spawned three sequels, a stage musical and a children’s TV cartoon.

The movie is about a 98-pound nerd who falls into a pool of toxic waste and transforms into a malformed monster with superhuman strength.

It’s hard to imagine Angermann on the set of a gory, low-budget horror movie — until she starts giggling at the memory of the fake blood.

“It was totally trashy,” she says. “But, again, lots of fun.”


DID YOU KNOW?
• Susan Angermann designed the costumes for this season’s cabaret productions, “That’s Life, Again” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
• Angermann worked as a costume designer at The Players Theatre for nine years.
• In addition to her job at FST, Angermann runs an image-consulting business that specializes in cleaning out closets and overhauling people’s wardrobes.  

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