Thursday, March 18, 2010

Broadway Bound

Hi Knitters,
Tour posts are hard to write because I have so much information to share and honestly, I know that sometimes these are long posts, a little too long. However, it is a way for me to document my experiences. The blog is really at times like my personal journal so I hope you can understand. I try to include a lot of photos and detail. If it's on here then I won't ever forget and my trip to New York last weekend is something I never want to forget.

After Loop we stayed in the plush and lovely Sofitel in Philadelphia. It was a treat. The next morning we took the train to NYC. We took a cab straight over to Artisan Books. That is my publisher. I love visiting and seeing everyone at Artisan. There is so much hard and loving work that goes into each and every book they put out. I have been working with Artisan since late 2004. That's getting to be a long time.

Mainly, I got to spend time with the managing editor and a person I consider to be my friend and sounding board, Trent Duffy. He toured us (my sister and me) around and introduced us to new staff members and not so new staff again. It is wonderful to be inside Artisan, to see the offices and fantastic books old and newly released, and the upcoming books in progress. It is a good place. In the near future Artisan is publishing a couple more knitting and fiber-related books so that is exciting. I'll keep you posted as they are a little unusual in a good way, a good twisty way.

Next, Trent walked us over (and on the way told us about a thrilling surprise he had planned for us later that night, we almost fell straight down on the sidewalk) to Soho Publishing (Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Debbie Bliss Magazine, Sixth & Spring Books). We were meeting Carla Scott (executive editor), Faith Hale (assistant editor) and Renee Lorion (yarn editor) for lunch. We were greeted by Carla and it was a pleasant surprise that Faith and Renee came along, too. We went to a lovely little French bistro nearby. The food was wonderful, the meeting was even better. What a warm, fun, creative group of women.

Carla generously has given me a fantastic project to work on for one of their upcoming magazine issues. I will tell you more about this later. It is going to be a good one!! I am not good at submitting to magazines. I get so caught up in my book work and other jobs that I never know when the deadlines are coming up. It's a good thing all around to just be given an assignment. I can't wait to get to work on this project. The ideas are coming quickly.

Carla had to leave after lunch, she was heading out of town. The rest of us got to linger a little bit over a hot cup of coffee. That was nice. We chatted and Faith and Renee are a friendly, fun pair. Renee took over for Tanis Gray as the yarn editor for the magazines and knitting books. Tanis moved to D.C. recently and is still doing work for Soho Publishing from there. We walked back to their office and parted ways and headed back to Artisan to pick up our luggage and to get to our hotel.

In the meantime, my brother had arrived from D.C., that's where he lives with his family. He took a bus up so we could be together for a couple of days. He was staying at our same hotel. We were so excited to see him as it had been awhile.

We only had about an hour or so before Trent was meeting us in our hotel lobby so we could walk to dinner at Un, Deux, Trois. He graciously made reservations for us all before we headed over to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. Trent is a good friend with the associate costume designer, Mitchell Bloom, for Mary Poppins. Trent called Mitch to see if there was anyway we could get house seats for the show. Sure enough we did!! House seats are about the best seats in the theater. We were 12 rows back from the stage. We were so close you could see every detail in the actors' faces and costumes. It was spectacular. I have to note that is was the first Broadway show I have ever been to which made it even more exciting.

One other note is that my sister is a huge theater buff and a singer and a local theatre actor. She has devoted her life to music and to teaching music and musical theater to children. Her own children are all singers and actors and dancer. Last summer two of her daughters came to New York to participate in a Broadway camp. While they were in camp she went to shows while they were busy. She loved it. Every year she teaches the music program for the second semester at her kids' school. At the end of the semester they put on a musical. This year they are doing the Music Man. My sister is very talented.

Needless to say she was excited we were going to the musical and that we had great seats. At the end of the show Mary Poppins flies off into the clouds. Our seats were directly under her flight path, the best place to be. I felt like I could reach up and touch Mary Poppins' shoes with my hand. It was magical. I loved every minute of it like I never wanted it to end.
Well, to make the story even better, Trent had called in an extra favor from Mitch. While we were walking over to Soho Publishing for lunch Trent told us that he had arranged for Mitch to meet us after the show and to take us BACKSTAGE at Mary Poppins! After the show we got the royal treatment in a way that none of us expected, not even Trent. The best surprise is that Mary Poppins herself, played by Laura Michelle Kelly, came and hung out on the stage with us. She even signed my playbill above. She was right next to us backstage. She is adorable, tiny and very gracious.
It was a night to remember. That's Trent above. He's the best. I think he had a good time orchestrating one of the most fantastic New York nights anyone could imagine. Our reactions to his surprises had to make him feel appreciated. I got teary-eyed several times during the night. My sister was beside herself. It was too much. We were loving every second of it.
It was dark and many of my backstage photos were a little blurry. I am not sure why. I think I was overwhelmed and just wanting to soak everything in. We started backstage with the stage manager Valerie. She told us all about the set and the flying and all of the details of putting on a show like this. Some of the wallpaper on the set is hand-painted. The set was so impressive and clever and detailed. Every inch was thoroughly thought out.
Happy people in front of an incredible set. Look at the detail, books in the book shelves, chandeliers, pictures on the walls....
That's Valerie on the left. She was wonderful to listen to with her great, funny stories. Next to Valerie is Mitch, then Trent and then my sister. At first we were in a small group of people listening to Valerie. That group then left and it was just Valerie and Mitch and the three of us. It was beyond! We never expected the exclusive up close tour we were about to receive.
I mean come on! They opened the curtain so we could see what it would be like to be looking out at the crowd. Just look at her face, it's glowing:)
That's Mary Poppins in the green coat. She was completely gorgeous and kind.
Sorry for the blur... the little boy in the blue jacket played Michael Banks. I got his autograph, too.
Laura Michelle (Mary Poppins) had a friend in the group and she hung around for a long time. she stood right next to Trent for a long while. It was awesome.
These were the backstage Mary Poppins umbrellas. Now only the five of us went WAY backstage. We headed down the stairs to the costume and dressing areas for the show. It was fascinating.Everywhere you turned there were racks of costumes hanging and hats and wigs and accessories. Each piece has a story and Mitch's mind stores every detail of every piece made for the show. Mitch has an incredible memory and I loved listening to his tales of ordering shiny stars from Italy and fabric dyes and ribbons and buttons and fabric. Heaven.
Each of these suits used up 11 yards of fabric. They had to be cut on the bias and those are the stars from Italy. Each suit had a different star pattern that was sewn on by hand. Incredible.
Mitch is telling us about the detail that went into the statue costumes which were really the most innovative and incredible costumes of the entire show. They were all padded on the inside and the hands were dipped in a rubber substance to make them stay in place. The inside of the leotard-like fabric was lined with padding to give the body extra form. I could have listened for hours.

I gathered that there is a vision from a designer and then the rest is basically problem-solving in order to make that vision come to life through costuming. What a journey and undertaking every show must be. I think I heard that there are around 500 costumes for Mary Poppins because they dress every person in the play for the various roles and then they dress multiple extras for each of those roles. It adds up.
The women's dresses had bustles that were quite ornate. I looked up the word bustle for fun:
fullness around or below the waist of a dress, as added by a peplum, bows, ruffles, etc.
a pad, cushion, or framework formerly worn under the back of a woman's skirt to expand, support, and display the full cut and drape of a dress.
I love the detail and the applique flowers. The women looked like they were floating on stage. It was beautiful.
These bustles were really amazing as they were like little shelves cascading down the back of the dress to create the bustle. The shelves were stuffed with pastries. Mitch actually pulled one of the tarts off the dress and showed it to us. It was like a hand-painted foam form, really cool.
This hat was made with ribbon from Japan sewn together around and around to form the ruffling shape. I can't express how fun it was to see and hear about all of this. Mitch is a genius. I don't know how he finds and thinks of all of these things. He had historical things and keeping things like the original show that started in London. It's so much to consider and think about. Mitch is now working for the Metropolitan Opera and doing their costuming. He actually hadn't been back to the Mary Poppins set for a couple of years and he was thrilled to see how well the costumes were holding up. They did look in fantastic condition.
There were a few knits included in the costuming. This was the back of a dress and it is knit lace, there were a few scarves and sleeves and Michael Banks had on a handknit sweater. I asked who did the knitting and Valerie said one of the cast members had knit up the items.

I'd love to knit for a Broadway show someday and maybe a movie, too. That would be pretty cool and kind of a dream come true.

I want to extend a huge thank you to Trent and Mitch for the incredible night we shared. We will never forget last Friday night. It was amazing, fun and exciting. Mitch especially went out of his way to share his world of costuming with us. We will never experience anything like it again. Thank you both. What a treat.

As we headed out of the backdoor of the theatre little did we know we would be caught up in hurricane-like weather. We were so tired and happy it didn't seem to matter much to any of us. Trent and Mitch walked us back to our hotel and we were completely drenched. We said goodbye in the lobby. On the way to the elevator my sister hugged me tightly around my shoulders as we walked side by side. When I looked over she was crying out of happiness. It made me feel good that she got to come with me and experience something that would mean so much to her. All of this is due to a few little knitting books:) Life changing.

We got to our hotel room. Dried off and jumped into our warm pajamas and snuggled into our wonderful beds. We sat and together read through our playbills from cover to cover talking about the show and reliving our backstage pass experience.

I don't know how I will ever top March 12th, 2010! It will be tough.

Trent - you are an awesome, gracious and generous man. Thank you.
best, susie
p.s. I'll be back with the rest of my NYC events very soon.