A Month at The Opera

By Sarah Waghorn — September 10, 2012

Here at Pukeko Design we also do the odd bit of costuming for Opera Lyra.

It’s kind of a weird gig because we don’t design the show but we don’t exactly build it either. Opera in North America is very good at sharing so companies like Opera de Montreal will build an entire opera (set, costumes and props) and once they have used it they will store so that it is available for other companies to rent.

That means that about 4 months before the Opera is installed at the National Arts Centre we receive a binder with lots of lists and photo’s of the existing costumes to get a feel sense of size, look and feel of the pieces. Then four weeks before opening night the 100+ costumes are delivered to us in hampers.

Now the job begins. We unpack the costumes and hang them in order (soloists, female chorus, male chorus, children and supers.) Then each piece of costume is measured and tagged. If you’ve ever seen an Opera than you know that this means a lot of pieces.

The cast is measured in advance so now we begin the task of comparing numbers and assigning costumes to our chorus. If the difference is a couple of inches either way we can simply alter it but if it the difference between current cast member and original cast member (from 5, 10 or 25 years ago) is too great then we need to build a whole new costume. This happens anywhere from 1-10 times a show.

Once everything is ready and labelled – (we mean everything; hats, undergarments, socks etc) – we pack it up for the move to the National Arts Centre. There are only a couple of rehearsals and a little bit of time for last minute alterations or repairs. Then after only a few intense days of hard work, the show is ready for you to see it!


One Museums junk is another Theatres treasure

By Kevin Waghorn — August 16, 2012

An awesome addition to the Pukeko Design costume collection was acquiring 40 new pieces from the Museum of Civilizations Dramamuse collection.

About a year ago the Museum decided to eliminate the Dramamuse troupe as part of cost cutting. The role of this troupe was to dress up in period costumes and engage visitors to the Museum. With the program no longer continuing the Museum no longer had any use for the costumes and put them up for sale.

The pieces range from the 1920’s to the 1950’s and many of them are actual dresses from the era. We also gained shoes, hats and a much coveted leather Dr’s bag.

Adding these pieces to an already extensive costume collection makes Pukeko Design a well rounded resource for local theatre companies, school and caterers to costume and theme their events.

We have a love of history, authenticity and beauty and these pieces are all of that!

2012 Lawyer Play

Playing with Lawyers

By Kevin Waghorn — August 13, 2012


‘The Lawyer Play’ has been on the Pukeko Design calendar since 2003.

Every year a play is chosen by members of the County of Carleton Law Association (aka lawyers and judges) and they join with the resources of The Great Canadian Theatre Company to create a memorable, professional looking production that raises money for the theatre and a charity partner (in 2012, it was the Lawyers Zambia Project, raising money to build a school in Zambia.) The cast of actors is made up entirely of members of the legal community while the designers and production crew are all professional theatre people.

The play for 2012 was His Girl Friday – a fabulous play set in a 1939 Chicago pressroom.

One of the great things about “the Lawyer Play” is seeing distinguished lawyers and judges out of their element and going through the slog of a rehearsal process. They have to commit to things that may seem less dignified or a little below the protocol than what they are used to. With His Girl Friday, this issue surfaced when it became obvious that there were more female cast members than there were roles (not unusal in non-professional theatre) and the only way to really deal with it was cross dressing. The question was, would the ladies go for it? Well, the challenge of dressing five females as males was fully embraced! We added beer bellies and moustaches as well as entertaining wigs to the ladies to aid in their transformation. They did their part by studying male posture and replicating it very well!

The rest of the job on this project called for set and props design. While the actors may not be pros, their commitment to the project is, so there is no letting up with the other design work. The set called for a lot of furniture and telephones. We were able to find a fantastic wooden filing cabinet, period rolling desk chairs and the perfect vintage garbage can. It really comes down to the details and sticking to your instincts to create an authentic look.

We had lot of fun with set dressing finding a vintage calendar, period phone book and some fabulous Underwood typewriters that probably were used by journalists in the 1940’s!

Twenty two lawyers, along with ten cameo performances by local politicians and city officials, made this year’s Lawyer Play a huge success and as much fun as always.


One Nite Wonders

By Kevin Waghorn — June 8, 2012

One Night Wonders was a fundraiser put on by the Lift Foundation. Whenever you work with a not-for-profit or charity you work as hard as you can to ensure that the funds raised go directly back into the organization. Sometimes the vision of the event may call for things that make that difficult. Our biggest challenge for the One Nite Wonders project was creating a ‘1960’s Ed Sullivan style backdrop’ from a two-dimensional event logo. For graphic designers, there are many considerations that go into developing a logo. How to make a three-dimensional version of it on a limited budget is generally not one of those considerations.

Luckily, the logo was quite a striaghtforward design and we immediately decided that 3D letters would make it more interesting. We looked into places that could manufacture the letters we wanted as we wanted, but the costs of this would have used up the majority of our budget. After mulling over a few ideas of how to approach the letters, we decided to give Styrofoam sculpting a try.

Cara Rowlands, who has many years of carving pumpkins under her belt, took the lead on this. She set about recreating the exact fonts out of 1 ½-inch thick Styrofoam sheets. After carving them and foam coating them, we applied them to our multi-piece backdrop and got an amazing end product. Our final cost was a fraction of any of the quotes we had received from outsourcing it. Now we have a great new skill to offer our clients and little bits of Styrofoam all around the workshop.


The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?

By Sarah Waghorn — June 4, 2012

When you’re the Head of Props at a theatre company, a lot of strange things come your way. A few years back, while at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, I was required to make a life size, recently slaughtered goat. Yes, this is true.

The goat was for an Edward Albee play called The Goat, or Who is Sylvia and the production was making its Canadian Premiere at the GCTC. Now, when I am presented a new challenge I did what most of us do – I turned to Google. I quickly learned that there were only two other theatre companies in the world who had presented this play (New York and London). I called them up and discovered that they were less than satisfied with the Goats they had built and had spent many thousands of dollars being disappointed. Now I had the challenge of creating Sylvia for less than a $300 budget and no real successful reference to draw from.

Where to start? When you want to learn about a goat the first thing you should do is talk to a goat. I headed to local petting farm and measured one (sort of – it wouldn’t really stay still.) I got some basic supplies together and got started.

The body was pretty easy to form with foam and chicken-wire, the neck was fabric stiffened with white glue, and for the head – Styrofoam. After a few false starts the legs ended up being dowel with hinged joints and carefully carved hooves.

The finished carcass was covered by hand in trimmed fur and its muzzle was created using pieces from a latex wolf mask.

The end result was a wonderfully realistic goat that made the audience gasp as its hooves touched the stage when it was laid down.

The grand total for materials was $168 and an awesome experience.