PLEASANT HILL -- While young actors sing and dance upstairs at the Old Firehouse building on Oak Park Boulevard, there's also a flurry of activity downstairs.
Through several years of Stars 2000s rehearsals lies a lair beneath the rehearsal room, home to many of the costumes which have clothed Diablo Theatre Company's young "Stars 2000" actors. As the clickety-clack sound of dancing shoes can be heard from above during rehearsal, there's a frenzy below of loading up costumes to take to Diablo Valley College, where Stars 2000 will stage "Thoroughly Modern Millie," from July 25 to Aug. 3.
Longtime costume designer Carol Edlinger knows the routine well, raising her children in dance and musical theater. Edlinger, who's good friends with Diane Kamrin, Stars 2000 producer and musical director, thought it was only natural to work behind the scenes, putting the sewing skills she's cultivated since childhood to good use.
Edlinger and co-costume designer Jane Yuen Corich have worked together to put the Midas touch on the costumes for "Millie," a musical set in 1922 Manhattan.
"We didn't create anything new but we've repurposed them," said Edlinger, who costumed for Acalanes High School productions while her children attended there.
She said clothes are sometimes specially made for productions, but several pieces are borrowed or rented from other companies.
"Everything we touch has to have some alterations done to it," Edlinger said.
Corich knew about Stars 2000 through associate producer Ellen Smith, a career counselor at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, where Corich's children attend.
"I was always impressed with the production that Stars 2000 put on at Las Lomas' theater," said Corich, a Walnut Creek resident. "One day, while talking to her about an upcoming production, I said, 'I can sew; do you ever need help? She looked at me in such a way I knew I was going to be roped in."
Corich, who worked as a designer and fashion stylist in New York City and also making costumes for the Contra Costa Ballet, is grateful for working on 1920s "Millie" with Edlinger to "visually recreate such a rich period in fashion."
"Clothing people has always been in my blood," said Corich. "In the back of my mind, I always imagined myself combing costume racks and tracking down the perfect outfit for local theater when I retired from day-to-day parenting. It came earlier than I had imagined, since I still have one in high school though neither of my kids has ever been interested in the theater. I have learned that costuming is a very time-consuming, detail-oriented job with lots of fun and unexpected moments."
Despite her fashion design background, Corich said she turns to Edlinger for guidance and navigating through the costume showroom.
Edlinger arranges all the costumes by period for easy access. She said she often conducts a "collaborative trade" with another costume designer from a theater company in El Dorado Hills, and with designers in other places.
"You just have to find what you need and make it want you want it to be," said Edlinger, who watched "Millie" on Broadway.
This means that a dress from 1980s can be transformed into one from the 1920s, she said.
"I've done 'Millie' before," said Edlinger, who has costumed designed for several Diablo Theatre Company and Stars 2000 productions.
Planning the wardrobe for the "costume plot" of the show includes gathering neutral clothes for work or daily wear scenes, and satin and shimmery red and black designs for party scenes.
"This is a huge costume show," said Smith. "Carol and Jane both have the expertise and knowledge of theater and design and they enjoy working with kids to recreate the look of this time period. It takes knowledge of all those elements to put together a really spectacular look."
WHEN: July 25-Aug. 3
WHERE: Diablo Valley College Performing Arts Center