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Clothes make the cast: Ovation! Theatre’s Abby Wyatt dresses up ‘Evita’

Abby Wyatt, long-time Ovation! Theatre contributor, returns for this month’s production of
Abby Wyatt, long-time Ovation! Theatre contributor, returns for this month’s production of 'Evita' as costume designer.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Abby Wyatt

The story of “Evita,” the latest musical production from Ovation! Theatre which opens Friday, July 18, relates to viewers the real life tale of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, second wife of president Juan Perón. It recalls her childhood, early acting ambition, calculated rise to power, controversial charity efforts and death through such iconic songs as “Don’t Cry for me Argentina,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” and “Oh What a Circus.”

The music, by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice, has become a staple of world wide theater culture, but many viewers to the Bainbridge production might leave just as impressed with the wardrobe as they are with the music.

The attention-grabbing attire is primarily the work of one woman, long-time Ovation! Theatre contributor Abby Wyatt, who returned to the island company once again for this production as costume designer.

“Abby started working with us when she was in, I believe, eighth grade as a costume volunteer,” said Ovation! co-founder Marijane Milton.

“She was my dresser on ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ I was Mrs. Potts — the teapot — and had a harrowing costume change at the end when I was transformed back into a person. Abby was completely unflappable helping me with this hectic change, a quality you have to have in costuming.”

Several years and many productions later, Wyatt decided to helm the garment design and coordination for “Evita,” which, being a historically based piece, is a very different kind of show from the pure fantasy work where she started.

“What’s been kind of interesting for me is [that] I had not actually seen ‘Evita’ before,” Wyatt confided in a recent phone interview from Montana, where she had been working with a local “Shakespeare in the Park” program near her alma mater in Missoula.

“She was with us for about a month, then off to Montana and [now] back again,” Milton laughed as she harkened back to Wyatt’s hectic schedule last month.

Wyatt said she was not worried that her brief absence would have any effect on the production.

“It happens,” Wyatt said. “The great thing is that we have a bunch of really great volunteers who are taking care of everything. The costume designer will [usually] appear late in the game or disappear on you.”

Wyatt explained that working with historically accurate material provides a unique challenge for the wardrobe designer, and typically eases the burden in the early stages of design as one has a definite starting point — unless the show is “Evita.”

“All shows are fun for different reasons,” she said. “Usually you can work directly from the script, but in ‘Evita’ there is very little in terms of stage directions and costume notation. It gives you a lot of freedom. I guess the most difficult thing is getting everything right when there’s so little direction [in the script].”

The production’s director, Ovation! co-founder Ron Milton, has been great about collaborating with her from the early stages, Wyatt said.

“I always try to start with the socio-political environment the show is kind of in,” she explained. “It’s really helpful as a jumping-off point.”

When she first began working with Ovation! as a volunteer intern in 2005 (her first show there was “Music Man”), Wyatt said she already knew she wanted to be the costume designer.

“I just wanted to be in costume, really since early middle school,” she said. “I went to a lot of theatre when I was a kid. It’s neat to be able to recreate that world [in Evita] that actually existed.”

Wyatt, a humble and soft-spoken person who is a far cry from the flamboyant or dramatic personality one might expect heading up a theater wardrobe operation, said that she actually does not enjoy Halloween as much as everybody seems to think a costume designer would, and prefers to make clothes only for other people.

When she is not working — which is rare — she said she likes to read.

Though she’s worked with many theater companies of various size, Wyatt said she keeps coming back to her hometown theatre first love.

“It’s really great [here] to have the community involvement” she said. “It’s kind of different in some ways than working in professional theater because it can be much more collaborative. Not that professional theatre is not collaborative, but you get to know everybody a little bit better.”

Tickets for Ovation! Theatre’s production of Evita are on sale now at www.brownpapertickets.com, by phone at 1-800-838-3006 and at Winslow Drug on Bainbridge Island.

The cost is $27 for adults, $22 for seniors and students and $19 for youths age 12 and under.

The show will run for nine performances from Friday, July 18 to Sunday, Aug. 3. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays in the Bainbridge High School theater.

 

Ovation! presents ‘Evita’

What: Ovation! Theatre’s production of Evita.

When: Nine performances from Friday, July 18 to Sunday, Aug. 3. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Bainbridge High School theater.

Admission: $27 for adults, $22 for seniors and students and $19 for youths age 12 and under; On sale now at www.brownpapertickets.com, by phone at 1-800-838-3006 and at Winslow Drug.

 

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