CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

10 Tips For A Perfect Quick Change

Theatre Nerds: Part of the magic of putting on a big Broadway-style musical are the performers coming offstage and onstage at lightning speed with a change in costume. However, accomplishing a costume quick change is no easy task. Here are some tips so you can pull off one just like the Broadway pros do

14 comments:

Taylor Steck said...

Regardless of the fact that I plan on declaring costume design, the "how" factor on the way quick changes are executed. I remember the day we learned about and did practice quick changes with muslin mock ups of costumes during the costumes mini being one of the most fun days in the entire mini. I always find that watching those little behind the scenes videos always make the quick changes look so much easier than they really are. Reading this makes me want to go back and read an article I saw posted on here months ago that interviewed dressers from different productions. I would like to learn more about the responsibilities of a dresser are and further information going into the actual conceptualization of how the rigging of these quick change pieces are created and designed, and what goes into the trouble shooting process of those garments. I'd also like to know more about some of the technology and hardware used on the bigger and more complicated pieces that were shown in the video, like the ones used William Ivey Long's designs for Cinderella since I feel like the article simplified the mechanics of it all so that it could actually apply to their target audience.

Annie Scheuermann said...

I was hoping this article would be full of some more helpful hints about doing a quick change that are not so standard. In The Three Musketeers their are a number of quick costume changes, and now that we are in tech I am starting to worry about them even more. One of the issues with most of the quick changes is that actor exits on one side and enters on the other, so the run around takes away some of the time. I do hope that the costumes are rigged as they talked about with quick snaps and velcro, as the rehearsal robes we have are zippers and last night did get stuck during a quick change. I would like to hear thoughts from Wardrobe Supervisors and how they start thinking about mapping out quick changes to implementing them. I do hope that we have enough time to practice the quick changes a few times so they are as smooth as possible.

Galen shila said...

This article did not really give much new information but it was a nice reminder about the procedures that make for a swift costume change. one thing that was not really mentioned was the attitude the stagehands have. If you are helping someone with a quick change and you act panicked this will panic the actor. This really can lead to more of a hold up than most other things. Its really important to keep your composure. That will really make things go smoothly. Other than that the standard procedures still hold nice and true. The use of pre-rigging really leads to some downright magical costume changes. When done right they can be missed in the blink of an eye if you are under dressing. Overall this article is probably really helpful to those who are new to costumes or for those who are not keen on quick changes. It goes over the basics and i find the videos really kept my attention.

Angel Zhou said...

Every one of the 10 tips in this article accurately reminds me of the time I spend on costume crew for “Ragtime”. This article only reinforces the professionalism and application-based attitude that Carnegie Mellon takes on when training and educating School of Drama students. In a way, it contrasts with the School of Computer Science’s theoretical approach to computer science.

In a way, it’s very satisfying to be able to read through this document and understand and recognize every nuance and tip it holds. It reinforces to me the fact that I obtained real life skills and applications in just three weeks on production crew. I personally enjoyed my time working on “Ragtime” – there was always something to do and more practice to be had (tip number six in the article). I truthfully have no other experience on any sort of production crew, and I do not always hear the best things about it, but when a show is truly meaningful to you and you are needed to keep the show from falling apart, crew can be very fun and rewarding.

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

Quick changes, done right, are very impressive. Personally, I haven't done any real quick changes, let alone dare to touch fabric, but this brings me back to our costuming mini way back when during the quick changes lecture. All I remember is, it is NOT easy, for both parties. There's so many things you can get caught on as well as dozens of buttons, zippers, or straps you could miss. Any slip up like this can drastically change the character's appearance, especially if a hat is on backwards. It's a completely different type of choreography that requires precision and teamwork from both parties. Granted, we were getting 20-30 second times with just a few articles of clothing so it's insane how professional shows can get the same results with entire outfits, sometimes including makeup, props, and water breaks. The one rule here that definitely applies, to much more than just this, is practice! Our teams got better and better times with more practice.

Julian Goldman said...

I think people often underestimate the complexity that goes into costumes, both in terms of the initial construction and the amount of maintenance/ work required to keep them working. I’ve worked as a dresser on some shows (and as a substitute dresser, I can definitely understand why writing down everything about a quick change is important), and I’m familiar with a lot of these techniques, but it is one thing to understand the various methods by which a quick change can be done and another to consistently and flawlessly be able to execute them. I always like watching videos like this just because I enjoy watching the system they’ve perfected to subdivide and streamline the tasks until it works like clockwork. Really, I think the principles that apply to a quickchange apply to planning any complex task with a time limit, it is just that with quick changes it is so fast that you can see all the different sub-tasks interfacing together in less than a minute.

Marisa Rinchiuso said...

Quick changes are a masterfully choreographed dance. I have always been in awe of the people who execute them flawlessly. The videos attached to the article are wonderful examples. I think the article provides great incites to people who are not familiar with the theatre world, or are new to it. The tips seem to include things that most experienced costumers know. However, not being one of those people myself, I found a few of the tips extremely helpful! I had thought the elastic shoe trick was really nifty. I had never thought about switching out laces for elastic, but I see how that could alleviate valuable time. Another tip that I think was extremely crucial was the tip of writing the entire change down, piece by piece. If dressers and actors did wrote the steps down together, there would definitely be improved clarity. In costume class when we practiced quick changes, the fastest time was after we both discussed the order of operation. I thought the article was a great look into the theatre magic for people who don't often get to experience it!

Emily Lawrence said...

I am currently in the costumes portions of stagecraft and am constantly amazed by what is happening. One class we got the chance to practice quick changes, and it really opened my eyes up to how much truly goes into perfecting a quick change. I never thought of simply adding Velcro or snaps to make something come off more quickly and I am amazed by how quickly it can happen. I remember watching Ragtime at points and thinking, wasn’t that person just in a completely different costume or how did they take that entire dress off and put a whole new one on in less than a minute. I know that it is very difficult to make sure that everything is running on time and if one change is late or missed, it can really effect the whole show. For instance, one thing that is majorly effected by quick changes are entrances. If an actor misses an important entrance it can leave the others onstage struggling and searching for a reason to continue the show. Quick changes are absolutely fascinating and wonderfully put together and practiced.

Helena Hewitt said...

Yes, watching a quick change can be exciting, but being part of a quick change backstage is where some of the most exciting moments backstage can take place. In a particularly tight quick change, it feels like for a moment that everything else slips away and it's just you and the actor making this impossible moment happen. The wardrobe department has some amazing tricks up their sleeves to make these moments appear seamless and effortless. I think that some people just assume that the wardrobe department are there to do laundry and help people change, but it is much, much more than that. Reading about how to make a quick change happen seems simple enough but just following these steps is not enough. You have to be completely calm and collected and “in the zone” and you have to be prepared, not just for helping the actor change at a breakneck pace, but for when the entire costume tears itself and you have thirty seconds to fix it.

Lauren Miller said...

As someone who works for the costume department making gadgets and accessories to facilitate the monsterous task of quick changing and running wardrobes for our season, I can confidently say that quick changes, and just Jen Marks as a human being, are magic. These ten tips will help, but in order to pull off a show like Ragtime (Kevin Paul's change out of a 3 piece suit and into a bathing suit and enter on the opposite side of the stage from where he exited took 40 seconds. All the shelves and hooks and paperwork in the world won't make that smooth. You need the secret spell book we keep under the stain removers in the laundry room. But really though, I have witnessed the entire preparing process and set everything up to orchestrate these miracles (the paperwork for Ragtime took days) and I'm still not sure how it all gets pulled off. Appreciate your wardrobe crew, because no one can do it like they can.

Ali Whyte said...

I absolutely love quick changes. They are some of the most complex, thought-out, intricate pieces of theatre out there. Quick changes aren't just a matter of taking regular clothes off quickly an putting more clothes back on quickly, it involves so much forethought, especially in construction. I do wish they had spent a little more of the article on the rigging, which is something I find fascinating, as opposed to the actual change itself, but I thought all of the points were very helpful. I especially think the use of videos in the article was particularly effective. Being able to actually see the article's point sin action allowed me to better understand exactly what it was trying o say. I would also really like to see a trouble shooting version of this as well. I think it would be really intriguing to see how, if and when something does go wrong, dressers are able to quick-fix issues, especially when it comes to quick changes.

Sarah Boyle said...

I remember having to figure out where to attach snaps, or underdress, or how many people to assign to a costume transition before it became too many. I totally agree with the article that it’s important to make sure that each person assigned to a transition has a specific job they are supposed to be doing, I have definitely experienced the chaos of a few people all trying to help an actor get their shoes on a once. I’m on run crew for Three Musketeers right now, and though I am not on costume crew, I have seen them practicing their transitions. There are so many layers to these costumes, and those layers have a ton of snaps and ties. Yesterday, they were planning how to add facial hair during a quick change, which completely blew my mind. Those changes are so quick and so detailed, and they don’t get anywhere near the practice time of most elements in the show.

Cosette Craig said...

I always love seeing articles from reputable news sites like “ TheatreNerds.com”. These steps seem so obvious to me and probably most other people who have done live quick changes, but I’m glad the article is there for those who hadn’t thought of the prep involved. Quick changing is not so much about the skill of the person doing the changing but rather the person who makes the costume easy to change. Adaptations to the design that make it snap or Velcro or zip when its something as complicated as a corset make creating a quick-changeable piece an art form. I also like that they emphasized that practice and focus are also equally important because if you lose your consistency, a hesitation of 5 seconds could cost you an actor’s timely entrance. The videos of crazy broadway quick changes are always fascinating to me because they always look like well choreographed routines.

Tahirah K. Agbamuche said...

For a website called “theatreNerds.com” this post contains information any real “nerd” would already know about. I did not find the article particularly informative, but for those who are new to the idea of quick changes then I am sure it would be helpful. I think it would he the most beneficial to Jen when she is giving the run crew, who often are actors, dramaturgs, or just not costume designers, a crash course in changing the actors. Outside of that, I am rather disappointed. I love quick changes and I have always thrived working on wardrobe in a show because of the adrenaline rush. I myself am always looking to add new skills to my tool belt, so I was disappointed. The comments below were almost more informative actually. Ah well. There is nothing like a smooth quick change it just makes you feel like superwoman(man). It is a brilliant feeling!

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