In addition to being a recent alumna of the UNC-Chapel Hill Costume Production MFA program (in which i teach) and the inaugural winner of the Barbara Matera Award for Costume Making, Leah is now based in NYC where she works as a first hand for the renowned production house Tricorne LLC, as well as working as a wardrobe swing for the long-running Broadway show, The Lion King.
[FYI: Barbara Matera was a legendary costumiere who ran her NYC shop, Barbara Matera Ltd., for many years, making clothes for theatre, ballet, opera, film, and more. USITT's award in her name was founded by her friend, assistant, and colleague, Judy Adamson, as a tribute to Matera, who passed away in 2001.]
Read on to find out what Leah has to share about these two super-cool jobs of hers!
labricoleuse: For a bit of background for the readers, would you describe the Tricorne shop or studio space--how many employees, what different positions there entail, specialty equipment the shop owns, etc?
LP: There are about 40 employees at Tricorne. Each of the 4-5 drapers, including the owner, Kathy Marshall, have up to three first hands, and the operators, tailors, hand finishers, and beaders are frequently shared amongst the drapers. We have one craft artisan, a shopper, and a few managerial positions.
As for specialty equipment, we have a small dye space, heat press, and ample beading frames.
labricoleuse: What is your background in the area of costume production, and how did you land the job at Tricorne?
LP: I minored in Theatre Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University and went on to work as an overhire stitcher at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. One of the drapers there inspired me to pursue my MFA in Costume Production from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which I completed in 2014.
I moved to New York City and interviewed at Tricorne and several other shops right away. Shortly thereafter, Tricorne contacted me about an opening in their shop. The dressmaking skills I acquired at UNC are the same as those used at Tricorne, and my mentor, Judy Adamson, knows Kathy [Marshall] well from the years they worked together in New York at Barbara Matera's.
[Ed. note: Also, in undergrad, Leah majored in...uh, something to do with political science and Slavic languages. All i'm certain of is that she can curse in Hungarian!]
labricoleuse: What advice would you give to readers who aspire to work in Broadway costume production?
LP: A good work ethic and an eagerness to learn can go a long way. Learn to speak confidently about your work and present yourself professionally not only while interviewing, but also in your day to day operations. And expect to juggle many projects at once!
labricoleuse: Can you talk about some of the projects you have worked on recently with Tricorne?
LP: Tricorne's primary niche is dressmaking for leading ladies and chorus women. Lately the entire shop has been working on a seemingly endless number of Romantic tutus and ballet bodices for Sleeping Beauty at the American Ballet Theatre. We've also been very busy with On the Twentieth Century, a Las Vegas show called Showstoppers, the London production of Beautiful, and Aladdin Tokyo.
Some of our biggest recurring projects include Glinda and many of the Emerald City ensemble costumes for Wicked, and a variety of pieces for Matilda, Mamma Mia, Motown, and Kinky Boots.
labricoleuse: What is your favorite must-have tool in your work kit and why?
LP: For practical reasons, my must-have tool would be a good chalky piece of white tracing paper and my shears. My favorite tool, however, is a beautiful wooden handled seam ripper given to me by a friend and educator from graduate school because it gets the job done in style! [Full disclosure: I gave Leah that seam ripper. And she's right, it's really sweet!]
labricoleuse: Does Tricorne have any internship opportunities for those still in school and if so, can you talk a bit about what it involves and how readers might apply?
LP: Tricorne does not have any such program in place.
labricoleuse: You also work as a wardrobe swing for The Lion King. Can you describe what that means for our readers?
LP: I'm one of a handful of substitute dressers, or swings, that the wardrobe head calls upon if one of the regular dressers is unable to work. The staff dressers have their designated track, or list of cues, that they complete for every performance. Some of the tracks are assigned primarily to dressing or tracking items for male or female ensemble members, while others work mostly with principal characters. As a swing, I have gone through training to learn six of the 16 tracks, and am contacted fairly regularly to fill in for any of them as needed, which sometimes is weeks in advance and sometimes with no time to spare!
labricoleuse: Thanks to you and the folks at Tricorne for sharing all of this great info, and also these sweet behind-the-scenes shots of those Sleeping Beauty tutus! Thanks, Leah, and best of luck moving forward with all your amazing projects!
Nearly complete! A process shot of American Ballet Theatre's
Sleeping Beauty, designed by Richard Hudson
Not as complete...another process shot of American Ballet Theatre's
Sleeping Beauty, designed by Richard Hudson
Leah called this "the Tutu Corral"--all the tutus waiting to ship out in one of Tricorne's fitting rooms!