Tag Archives: theater

Where have I been!?!? COSTUMING!

I haven’t been posting as much as I have in the past.  Wondering why?  I accepted a full-time position at The Rose Theater as the Costume Shop Foreman, so I’ve been keeping QUITE busy.

Corner office with a view.

I’m still adjusting to working on children’s theater costumes from 9-5 and then working on my own brand during lunch breaks, evenings and weekends. I’m used to working a lot, but this new ratio of working outside the studio vs. time in the studio has been a rough change.

Repairing butterfly wings at my dayjob.

At first I was really concerned because of all the time I would NOT be spending on Audio Helkuik collections, but I’m really so grateful for this job.  If I have to have a 9-5, it’s pretty much the perfect for me.  Children’s theater is really random and wonderful.  My supervisor is really good and really, really, REALLY fast, so I learn a lot from her.  I can’t wait to be able to design, pattern and sew as quickly as she does.  So many of the skills I’m perfecting in the costume shop are exactly the skills I need to continue making Audio Helkuik better and better.  I love to learn.  I love getting better.

Day job work desk essentials: fur, leather, goggles, specs and coffee.

With my new position, I get to design a few mainstage shows each season.  Right now I’m working on designs for a show about a little family of singing mice.  Children’s theater.  So random.  So wonderful.

Designing outfits for singing mice.

My table at a staff design presentation event. Mice!

Really excited to see my designs on the stage again.  I love costume design.  I love fashion design too.  Don’t you worry.  I have LOTS of projects in the works for Audio Helkuik.  Screenprinting.  Leatherworking.  New collections.  Photoshoots.  SOOOOOOO PUMPED.

The future is looking up. Life is good.

One of my desk drawers at work is filled with antique irons. Cool. Random.


Posted by on 03.29.14 in Audio's Life, Costumes


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Ah, Wilderness! Costume Design

One of the plays I recently worked on was Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O’Neill.  I was the costume designer for the Northwestern College Theater Department’s production of it this fall.  I’ve never been part of an O’Neill production before, but I’m glad it was this one. I hear it is his happiest/funniest/most light–hearted script.  Like all of his plays, he includes a lot of overlapping themes: family, love, alcoholism, hope, teen rebellion, independence.

FACT: This was my very first ever historical costume design!

I don’t know how I’ve made it this long as a costumer without doing a historical costume design, but I have.  I mean, I have been part of historical plays, but always with non-traditional design concepts and costumes.  I’m hired for alot of avant-garde projects, or projects with descriptions that end with “with a twist!”  I’m really good at blending themes and creating imaginitve worlds, so a straight up historical play with traditional, historical costumes just had never come my way.  I’m happy to have this one in my portfolio, for sure. What kind of costumer doesn’t have any historical plays under their belt?

Miller family room

Ah, Wilderness! is set in 1906.  I went into this design with a kinda/sorta/almost working knowledge of this time period.  Which means, I did a lot of research.  I loved all the old photographs I came across.  My very favorites were Edward Linley Sambourne’s street fashion photos.  (Sambourne did street fashion photography before street fashion photography was cool.)  He snuck photographs of women while they were out and about.  This is a little creepy, but now we have all these amazing images of Edwardian clothing showing what they wore day-to-day and how they moved in it versus what they wore for formal pictures as they posed stiffly.  These photos are a treasure and they were really helpful for my research.

With the costumes, I really wanted to highlight how strong the ties of family were throughout this play.  I used a tight color scheme of blues, blacks, whites, creams & greys to show the family.  They looked great all together, but could still interact with the rest of the world as individuals.

Miller dining room

My favorite character in this play is probably Norah, the Miller family’s maid.  She has a fairly minor role, but provides a lot of exasperation to the matron of the house and consequently, a lot of humor to the audience.

Norah, the Miller family’s maid

Some of the costume renderings of the family members I created were left uncolored.  I did this because I knew my Miller color scheme and I needed a bit of flexibility since we were on a huge time crunch.  This allowed my crew to move quickly to collect/alter/build pieces to assemble each outfit without the constraints of creating the EXACT garment in the EXACT shade portrayed.  Normally, this isn’t how I design, but I think it was a successful choice for this show.

Lily Miller

Tommy Miller

Norah, the Miller family maid


Posted by on 12.09.12 in Costumes


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How I Spent my Fall Semester

Since the morning after the Omaha Fashion Week Finale Runway Show in August, I’ve been in Orange City, IA working as an interim Costume Studio Manager for Northwestern College’s Theater Department.  I had zero recovery days after the chaos that is known as Fashion Week.  While it was a bit of an exhausting transition to go from runway work straight into a fast-paced theater costuming gig, I truly love my work.  Here at Northwestern College, I teach, I learn, I laugh, I love.

Instructing a student on how to stitch trim onto some belts we made.

NWC has one of the nicest costume studios I’ve ever worked in.  Most kind of have that “super cluttered basement” feel to them.  This one is big and bright with TONS of windows and the workspace is pretty much clutter-free.   It makes me want to cut down on the clutter in my own studio, which is always a challenge for someone who loves to collect fabric and supplies.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a bazillion large storage rooms to help keep my workspace completely clutter-free, so I just try to keep it under control

Showing NWC theater students how to create whiskers on masks.

Despite the great workspace, after three months on Orange City, I’m definitely ready to come home. Orange City is a small, conservative town that makes me miss Omaha, my Homaha SO MUCH.  I will also miss the NWC theater department when I leave.  They all also love to teach, learn, laugh, love.

Photo credit: Stephen Allen Photography


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audio helkuik: temporary costume studio ninja

Most of my costume design gigs are done in a freelance sort of manner.  I’m contracted for the design of a particular show with a company and then I’m back out on my own.  Right now, I am working in an entirely different setting. This fall, I was brought into a college theater department as their interim Costume Studio Manager while their costumer is away on maternity leave.  I’m at Northwestern College’s Theater Department, which is an educational theater program.  Every theater wants to make great productions and sell tickets, but here the main focus is to teach and mentor.  The amazing productions and ticket sales are a by-product of the educational work we do.  This is a great environment for me because I love to learn. I’m supposed to be doing the teaching here, but I learn as much as I teach, if not more.

It’s a cool gig because I am doing more than just designing a show and then scampering off.  I’m way more involved with this theater than the others I freelance at because I am managing the entire studio.  I have workers, a crew, budgets, a costume rental program to run, department meetings to attend, several deadlines to juggle, and I also have the responsibility of teaching all my students theater costume contruction and techniques through a very hands-on way.  I’m also designing costumes for a production while I am here, but we have student designers that I mentor through the process.  I am given about a dozen students for my costume crew, most of which have never sewn anything.  I quick teach them how to use a machine and then we sew an entire show together.  The students’ faces morph into wide-eyed panic when projects go from “Let’s practice a straight stitch” to “Okay, now stitch this dress together.”   It’s fast-paced.  It’s hard work.  It’s rewarding.  It’s theater.

Oh!  And at this studio, I have my own office! Before we were too deep in chaos this semester, I made a little temporary nametag for outside of my temporary office.  I figured I pick my own title of  “costume studio ninja” because, really, who’s gonna stop me if I’m the one running the place?

audio helkuik: temporary costume studio ninja


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Backstage Glasses Disaster

There’s always some sort of disaster backstage at a fashion show.  Same goes for a theater performance.  Even though I always pack an emergency sewing kit, sometimes the mishaps are beyond what my sewing kit can handle.  A disaster of this non-sewing nature happened to me at Omaha Fashion Week this year.  I had planned for all of my models to wear a pair of oversized glasses on the runway.  I talk about they were tedious to create here.  Since each pair had quite a bit of time invested in them, I didn’t make any extras. (Oh, regrets!)

So, when a pair of these glasses snapped right in half shortly before my models were supposed to lineup to go out on the runway, all of my experience dealing with backstage theater emergencies rushed forward and I went into hardcore theater mode.  I started flying through this list immediately:

1) Determine the situation’s WORST CASE SCENARIO and start coming to terms with that, just in case it is reality. (Also, make sure you actor/model is focusing on THEIR job and not getting caught up in a guilt/apology cycle.)

2) Assess the damage.

3) Sift through all supplies/tools on hand.

4) Brainstorm all supplies/tools that could be acquired QUICKLY.

5) Disperse all hands on deck to start taking action.


For this, the worst case scenario was we’d be short one pair of glasses. Or one model would wear a regular pair of prescription glasses that didn’t match the others.  In reality, really not TOO horrible of a situation. In the moment of panic after months of months of prepping for this, it felt like a bigger deal.

We tried the standard masking tape over the broken bridge of the glasses like the classic nerd-style,which would’ve worked okay with my collection’s theme but tape didn’t hold.  I sent my partner out for Super Glue, and that didn’t work either.  (Although I can cross “Super glue your fingers to a pair of broken, handmade glasses” off my bucket list. And then maybe make a cooler bucket list.)  This is when another model pointed out that the pair of frames that I was wearing that night didn’t have lenses and could used as part of the solution.  We located some black stretchy elastic thread from another backstage designer and started strapping the two broken pieces onto my lens-less frames. It looked like a sad, haggard mess of a repair when you were up close, but at that point it was time to throw the glasses on the model and step up to send models out onto the runway.

Assess the damage: Yep. Totally broken.

The “beautiful” result of a last minute backstage repair.

That elastic thread is hard to handle in the dark!

A close-up of the chaos.

Strapped down and sent out on the runway.

I am so committed to great craftsmanship, clean stitching, high quality, etc, that this was really hard for me to put on the runway in front of an audience!  Luckily, I really only had about 12 seconds to hesitate and then I had no other choice!  Although, I will admit that I’m pretty impressed with the overall result.  I asked a few friends that were out in the audience if they noticed and not even one of them had a clue.  And, check out this photo from g thompson higgins gallery!  The model looks amazing and you’d never know there had been this huge flurry of repair brainstorming going on minutes before my models stepped out on the runway.  (Except for the fact that I blogged all about it…..)  There are definitely no hard feelings between me and the model.  He was assured MANY times of that fact, and he looked great on the runway even with a pair of makeshift glasses.  Actually, I suspect his were far more comfortable than the other models’ anyways.

Photographer: g thompson higgins gallery
Model: Nolan Nuzum
Hair/Makeup: Sirens at the Loft


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Go to your happy place: an Overcrowded Costume Shop

In the theater where I work, there’s a very, very full costume rental shop in the basement.  My coworker friend manages the rental department, but when she can’t make it into work I get to fill in.  I can’t bring myself to say “I LOVE WHEN SHE’S SICK!” because being sick is a sucky deal, but it means I get to be surrounded by costumes all afternoon.  (When I say surrounded by costumes, I really mean “almost swallowed up by the insane amount of costumes stuffed into this space.”)

Audio Helkuik in their natural habitat: an overcrowded costume shop.

Besides all the vintage outfits, the giant animal bodies, and crazy headwear, the reason I REALLY REALLY love costume shops is because they are SO. FREAKING. RANDOM.

Randomness strikes: “Where should I put these handfuls of wolf heads?”

And where else would it be normal to find a box of polar bear heads stashed under a giant gator body?

Of course it’s alot of fun to run around and play dress up while working in a costume shop, but there IS actual work that has to get done. I took a photo for proof. Exhibit A:

Sorting colors for the billionth load of laundry that day.  I loathe doing laundry.

For curious folks: The theater I stitch at is the Rose Theater in downtown Omaha.


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Muazzez performance

The Great Plains Theater Conference takes place every year in Omaha, NE.  Theater folks from all over come in for this event.  This year was my first year being part of this theater conference, so I really didn’t know what kind of audience to expect.  I did know that there were tons of performances, script readings and workshops through the conference and I heard they were all really well-attended.  The performances took place at a different venue each night and they were all at nontraditional settings for theater: a night club, an old train station, an art gallery, on a prairie hill, on top of a parking garage, and outdoors.

House of Loom becoming a full house.

I was asked to do some costuming for the performance at House of Loom, which is a night club south of the Old Market.  It is a local nightlife spot with a great vibe that I really love, so I was excited to see it function as a theater venue for a night.

Local band Gus & Call wrote the score for this performance.  They are outstanding musicians.  I was in love with all the sounds that were in this production.  They even built a wine bottle xylophone-type instrument for the show!

Gus & Call performs the score they wrote for Muazzez.

Custom-made wine bottle xylophone rack.

The play was Muazzez by Mac Wellman.  I loved being a part of this production.  Everyone was so easy to work and there was a great deal of talent involved.  Timothy Siragusa is an actor, performer and artist from Omaha and he is outrageously talented.  It was like magic watching him rehearse.  Put Tim on a stage and it’s pretty much instant captivation.  Hand him a stellar costume, throw on some lights and have a band play an incredible score while he performs a Mac Wellman script and Tim Siragusa is unstoppable.

Timothy Siragusa takes the stage.

Timothy Siragusa has the stage taken from him by a scene-stealer.


Great Plains Theater Conference:

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Posted by on 06.07.12 in Costumes


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Costume Design for Avant Garde Theater: Muazzez

As part of the 2012 Great Plains Theater Conference, I was asked to costume a Mac Wellman play.  It is titled Muazzez, from a larger piece of work called A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds.  This was my first encounter with a Mac Wellman script and I quickly learned that he is infamous for stories that poke fun at our culture using an eclectic set of vocabulary, outlandish themes and heavy underlying topics.  Muazzez lives up to everything I was warned about. It was cool to be asked to costume this avant garde play, because I was also just chosen to present a clothing collection in an avant garde runway show.  Avant garde plays! Avant garde runway shows! Avant garde everything!

Costume illustration for Muazzez.

Muazzez takes over my studio workspace.

Muazzez is about an abandoned cigar factory on another planet.  I assumed that I’d be costuming the people that make up the workforce in the factory, but the actor IS the cigar factory.  I loved that the costuming concept could really go ANY direction: literal, crazy, minimalistic, whatever.  I created an outfit that conveys the “noble king of nothing” personality of the character, but also encompasses the look of my clothing brand.  Because the script creates a costuming opportunity that is so open to interpretation, I decided I could go ahead and infuse my costuming work with my brand’s aesthetic for this project.

Typical Audio Helkuik aesthetic: Accessorizing the accessory.

Stylized handstitching.

I also did makeup design for this production.  The actor’s  neck, fingertips and soles of his feet were to be painted black.  I always do a practice run of the makeup before the day of the show and typically I practice on myself.

Sketch of foot makeup.

Painting my foot for practice.

Painted foot: Muazzez body makeup design

Watching the rehearsals for this production were a treat.  The performance venue, House of Loom, is such a cool space, which is great since we all spent alot of time here working on Muazzez.  Reading scripts, coming up with concepts, creating the outfits and watching them come to life (with a great Gus & Call soundtrack!) is so fun, especially when you get to work with great people along the way.

Watching the Muazzez rehearsals at House of Loom.


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