Willie Wonka, center, played by Alan Edstrom, shows off one of his creations during a scene from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," opening Friday at Home Made Theater. Also in the photo from left are, Matthew Boyce, Jacklyn Parker, Gabrielle Vuillaume and Austen Halpern-Graser. (HomeMade Theatre photo)
SARATOGA SPRINGS Home Made Theater may have an extensive wardrobe collection in the basement, but it doesn’t always satisfy the needs of costume designer Linda Bertrand.
“Sometimes you have the right piece of clothing, but it’s the wrong size for the actor,” said Bertrand, who is serving as costume designer for the Home Made Theater production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” opening Friday at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park. “Sometimes you can take things in but you can’t take them out. We have quite a good collection at Home Made down in the basement, but with new shows you’re not always going to find exactly what you need.”
Bertrand, however, has become an expert at finding precisely what she needs since she started working at Home Made Theater about 10 years ago. Something like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Roald Dahl’s children’s story set in England in the 1920s, can be particularly taxing for a costume designer.
“This show has a lot of children in it, so there are a lot of people and a lot of different sizes you’re dealing with,” said Bertrand. “Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I have kind of a costumers’ network in the area, and I know where I can get things if I need them.”
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” dramatized by Richard R. George, has been adapted for the stage numerous times. The Home Made production, directed by Kirk Starczewski, is the non-musical version and stars Alan Edstrom as Willy Wonka, owner of the Chocolate Factory, and Scott Brown as Charlie Buckett, a poor young boy who wins a lifetime supply of chocolate candy. The book was made into two major motion pictures, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” in 1971, and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in 2005.
'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday and runs through Dec. 22; performance times are 7:30 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Dec. 14, 15 and 22; and 1 and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 21
HOW MUCH: $18-$12
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
“I love being around children, so I will be there just about every night,” Bertrand said of the show’s two-weekend run. “Costuming mishaps sometimes happen, especially with a lot of kids in the cast. There are zippers that break in the middle of a show, and there are other wonderful stories I could tell you, so I like to be around in case I’m needed.”
Bertrand, who lives in Waterford, originally got involved in costume design because her daughter was in a school play.
“She got a speaking part in the high school play when she was still in junior high, and me, being a home ec teacher, asked the director if they needed some help,” remembered Bertrand, who recently retired from the Waterford-Halfmoon school district after 32 years. “I had no real technical experience in the theater, but I grew up in the city and went to shows quite a lot. When the director gave me a pattern and some fabric and said, ‘Will you sew this?’ I said ‘I can do that.’ I always loved working with fabric.”
What started out as a volunteer assignment for her daughter’s high school evolved into a great part-time job at Home Made Theater. Bertrand has also done costume design for Curtain Call Theater in Latham and Schuylerville Community Theater, along with school productions at Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa high schools.
“I start out by reading the script, seeing what we need, and then we have a production meeting where I work through the creative vision that the director and I come up with,” said Bertrand. “I create a picture with fabric, and the clothes help create the character. It really is a lot of fun, and people in the theater community are the greatest people to work with. They really are nice people.”
One less worry
For Starczewski, a costume designer with Bertrand’s track record makes things a lot easier.
“Once we had Linda on board, my worries about costumes never crossed my mind,” he said. “We compare visions, and then I have enough confidence in her to just let her figure things out. We do bounce ideas off of each other, but once I talk to her about something, I know that problem’s been solved.”
Starczewski’s No. 1 priority for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” even above the costumes, was getting a talented actor to play Willy Wonka. Edstrom, though a relative newcomer to Home Made Theater, has been seen on stage there as the Tin Woodman in “The Wizard of Oz” and Clown 1 in “The 39 Steps.”
“I had several people audition and some very good reads for Willy,” said Starczewski. “It was a tough decision, but Alan brings a lot of creativity, energy and improvisation to the role. It’s been a lot of fun working with him on the character.”
Michael McDermott created the set for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and Jaime Martinez-Rivera is the lighting designer. Home Made Theater regular Winnie Bowen plays the narrator.
“You can look at this show on different levels,” said Starczewski. “The children love it, but everybody gets entertained. It reaches out to the kid in everybody.”
Bertrand enjoys working with the cast and crew so much, someone suggested she should take a turn in front of the audience.
“I enjoy the creativity and camaraderie backstage,” she said. “I tell people I acted for 32 years in front of a classroom. I don’t want to do that anymore, and I don’t want to audition. I love what I do here, especially at Home Made, where everyone who contributes is looked upon with importance. We’re like a family, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”