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I sat down at The Civic Theater to talk to Mary Harris about dressers and wardrobe.

Mary got into costumes on a whim about 20 years ago at the Pine Hills Lodge in Julian.

"One of the guys in a show up there was a stage hand for the local 22 and saw my work. He told me the 905 could use an over hire for the costume shop. I called the business agent at the time and got my name on the list."

The local 22 is the stage hand's union and the 905 is the local wardrobe union.

I had no idea what an over hire was.

"When we're doing a show and we're really busy we would hire extra people--this is back in the day, we don't really do this anymore--but back when the costume shop was in the theater and we did all the sewing here and all the fittings here, there weren't enough people in the union to do the work so they would bring in extra people as over hires to complete the project. There were only about 20 people in the union back then but now there are 50. I put my name on the list and they called me."

You may wonder what other theaters use union dressers and wardrobe.

"The Sports Arena, The Center for the Arts in Escondido. The Balboa Theater has the same parent company as The Civic so they're both union houses. The Globe doesn't, The Rep doesn't, and The Playhouse doesn't. Of course the smaller companies don't either."

Mary got into the 905 through the San Diego Opera costume shop and is the department head on the theater side.

"My responsibility is every piece of wardrobe that comes to the theater. It's my responsibility to get it here, rack it, count it, take care of it, repair it, wash it, whatever needs to be done to get it onto stage for a rehearsal."

What about the Broadway San Diego shows?

"Oh, with Broadway San Diego I just go in as a regular worker. I go in, sometimes I do laundry. Sometimes I dress a principal, sometimes I dress the chorus. I'm just a worker bee. The touring shows always have wardrobe people with them. Usually there's at least one but there can be two or three on the bigger shows. I take my instruction from them. There's always a union steward on to coordinate the show schedule."

What shows come to the Sports Arena besides Dancing with the Stars?

"There's a lot of one day shows like So You Think You can Dance but the Disney on Ice shows will come through and those are four or five days. I did costumes on the Rockettes. That was three days and it was the first time The Rockettes had ever been to the West Coast. They were really great and that was a big show but most of the time the arena shows are one day. Every now and then you get a band that's really hot and they'll do two days. When I worked on 'N Sync and Ricky Martin, they both had two shows."

So there you have it. If you want to help Ricky Martin or The Rockettes get dressed, join the local 905.

Mary Harris


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