WIP: “Ghost of a Chance” costuming

Buck the deer stands guard over the “Ghost of a Chance” set

My first costuming gig of the 2018/2019 community theater season opens tomorrow. The show is “Ghost of a Chance” by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus. The show was written in the mid-1990s and we have kept it in period.

Bethany, a young widow, and her fiance, Floyd, have come to the hunting cabin Bethany inherited from her late husband to get it ready for sale. They have brought along Floyd’s mother, Verna, who is not happy about the upcoming wedding. Unbeknownst to Bethany, the cabin is haunted by the ghost of her husband, Chance, who died three years ago in a tragic hunting accident. Hijinks ensue.

Here’s Verna and Floyd on arrival at the cabin on Friday night. I dressed Verna up a little since they are coming from the city, but she’s in muddy taupe and moss green. I thought of Verna as anti-chic. Best costume finds for Verna were this late-80’s style blouse in the hideous print, the matching moss green sweater and the turtleneck you’ll see later. I found them all at the same time in a Goodwill store. The pleated taupe skirt is from another thrift shop but it matched perfectly.

Floyd, a mild-mannered and overly cautious dentist, is in full-on nerd mode. That jacket is a weave of dark grey, black and red, but it reads muddy grey-brown on stage. Best costume find for Floyd was that pair of fake glasses with the heavy aviator frames. $2 from the same thrift store as Verna’s pleated skirt.

The two plaid shirts on the coat rack are from the theater’s costume storage. The minute I saw the L.L.Bean red and black plaid, I knew it had to be onstage. It didn’t work for any of the costumes, so we made it set dressing.

Here’s Bethany’s entrance. She’s very controlled (on the surface anyway) and she hasn’t let herself feel much of anything since Chance’s death, so I wanted a neat, slightly yuppy look for her. Her favorite color is blue, and she spends most of the play in these black slacks with tops in various shades of blue. This is a periwinkle jacket over a white and periwinkle striped shirt.

Chance’s ghost has made his appearance and Bethany, who is the only one who can see him, is distraught. Chance was killed while hunting (“I was gored to death by Bambi. Go figure.”) so he is in camo and olive drab with a blaze orange hunting vest. Best costume find for Chance (made by the actor, so I can’t take credit) are those camo hunting boots. I don’t think they are period 1990’s but I loved them so we used them anyway.

You can get a better idea of the print on Verna’s blouse from this photo. I have no idea what the fabric designer was thinking, but it screamed Verna the moment I saw it.

Floyd has taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to help with the packing. Floyd seemed like a sweater-vest kind of guy, so here is the first of two he wears during the show.

It’s Saturday morning and Bethany has hired hippie boho psychic Crystal Devereux to rid the cabin of Chance’s ghost. There’s next to no time for a costume change, so I just switched out Bethany’s periwinkle jacket for this denim one with floral embroidery. I added 1-inch shoulder pads to it to give it that Dana Scully x-files look.

Here’s Crystal in (almost) full regalia. There’s also a multi-colored scarf, but the actress forgot it for the first half of the rehearsal, so you will see it later. The tie-dyed skirt is one of two pieces we rented for the show, the blue shirt and patchwork bag belong to the actress, and I found the boots in a thrift store. It’s hard to see in the photo, but they have two rows of woven leather braiding around the ankles. There are too many best costume pieces for Crystal for me to pick only one.

Floyd has changed into sweater vest number two with a different white and blue tiny-patterned shirt, and Verna is now in a more casual but still taupe skirt and the turtleneck I found at the same time as the hideous print blouse and the moss green sweater. I remember turtlenecks exactly like this from my college days in the early 80’s.

It’s Saturday evening and Bethany has swapped her striped shirt for a royal blue turtleneck sweater. You can see her embroidered denim jacket and Crystal’s purple suede jacket on the coat rack in the back corner.

Adam Lucas, retired accountant and the hunting cabin’s buyer, has shown up early to see if Bethany will sign the sale papers. Chance is not happy.

Floyd, fueled by half a fifth of vodka, has decided that Bethany prefers men in the mold of her first husband, and has raided Chance’s closet. Those are the exact same camo pants as Chance is wearing. Clay, the actor who plays Chance, found his pair at a local Walmart so I bought a second pair for Floyd to wear in this scene. The orange vest is a thrift store find and the 3XL hunting coat is the other piece we rented for the show. The sleeves on it had been rolled up twice and hemmed, but I took them down to make it look as overly large as possible on the actor.

Now it’s Act 2 and here’s Crystal’s scarf to lend even more color to her outfit. I found the print at the local JoAnn fabrics, had them cut two 12-inch wide lengths, and hemmed them together to make one hugely long scarf.

It’s early Sunday morning. Floyd is back to his old self, but with sunglasses to mute his hangover. Crystal is getting ready to leave and is wearing her purple suede jacket.

Chance has convinced Bethany to call off her wedding to Floyd and stay with him. She’s back to her girly, 18-year old self with this short, floral print skirt and, aside from the bit in the print, she’s not wearing her favorite blue. That skirt is my best costume find for Bethany, but it took two days and eight (8!!) thrift stores to find it. It needed to be above the knee (the director specifically wanted it short), girly, floral (I wanted a floral print) and it needed to coordinate with one of the blue pieces Bethany had worn previously (more about that in a later picture). All I can say is that there are a lot of ugly print skirts in the world. Her cream cowl neck and the little red sweater are also thrift store finds. I got the red sweater after I had the skirt and it is specifically red because at one point near the end of the show Bethany asks Chance what her favorite color is and he mistakenly says it’s red. I figured red was his favorite color, just as he answers with his favorite food when she asks him to tell her what hers is.

Verna’s final costume for the show. Those are the ashes of her dead husband, Harold, that she is cradling in her lap. She has been in skirts up to this point because the director wanted her in a dress, but she has to do some bending over for the last couple of scenes, so we put her in pants. She’s still in Verna’s color palette, but it is a little more hopeful red, just like…

Floyd is finally ready to fight for Bethany’s love, and he’s in a red shirt to go with his determination. Floyd’s costuming sticks closest to the original costume plot in the script, and I really liked the idea of switching him from his light blue shirts into a red at this point, so we did it.

Monday morning. Verna puts her moss green sweater back on and goes outside to finally let Harold go.

And Bethany is back in her favorite blue as she and Floyd dance to Glen Miller (her favorite musician).

Bonus shot – the cast boogies to “In the Mood” after final bows.

“Ghost of a Chance” by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus will be performed at Mapleton Hall in Suffield, CT on October 11, 12, 13, 19, 20, *21, 26 and 27 at 8 pm (*2 pm Matinee). Call 800-289-6148 for tix, or order online: www.suffieldplayers.org

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