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Liz Martin and Rebekah McClintick at Pink Depford Designs in Martinez, working on costumes for a production of "Mary Poppins" in Berkeley, and the Dickens Christmas Fair.

MARTINEZ -- When Rebekah McClintick traveled from Dunbar, Scotland, as a student two years ago, there was no clue that she would return to Martinez and be making a Boeing Airlines stewardess cap.

McClintick is interning this month at Liz Martin's Pink Depford Costume Design Studio and the cap is for the Altarena Playhouse comedy production of "Boeing Boeing," currently running through Sept. 14 in Alameda.

"It is just one of those serendipitous things," observed Carol Hatch.

Dunbar is John Muir's birthplace and sister city to Martinez, home to the John Muir National Historic Site. McClintick was welcomed as part of a Sister City program.

McClintick returned to Scotland where it was time to select a field of study for Queen Margaret University near Edinburgh. Although she inherited her grandfather's artistic ability, she had always planned to become a fiction writer, but switched to costume design at the last minute.

"Everybody told me I could not make a living as a writer and I knew I could never do an office job," she said. "Costume design is a practical and creative alternative. Every piece is original.

"There are similarities between costume design and writing," she said. "When an actor appears on stage in costume, you can tell who the character is, before he speaks a line ... I'll end up being a storyteller, whether it is with fabric or words."


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Soon, McClintick realized that she needed to improve her sewing skills, and recalled Hatch, and her connection to theater in Martinez.

"Beckah asked if there might be an internship and I connected her to Liz," Hatch recalled.

Liz Martin said it is not unusual for her to mentor interns, and that she is pleased to have McClintick in the studio as she gears up for the San Francisco Dickens Christmas Fair.

Martin won the 2013 and 2014 Shellie Award for costume design and is currently nominated for her work on productions of "Les Miserables" and "Pygmalion" at the Lesher Center for the Arts.

"I love the questions (interns ask). It makes me think more and gives me the opportunity to see something from somebody else's eyes," Martin said.

"I love that she says there is no such thing as a stupid question," McClintick said. "I've learned how much more there is to the process; interviewing the director, measuring the actors, checking the inventory -- before you get to the fun stuff, grabbing the fabric and get going."

A Boeing stewardess cap was McClintick's first project. Martin said it was fine, but McClintick was striving for perfection. "I am learning to be more patient with myself."

Martin talks about the importance of understanding the director's vision and how costumes relate to every aspect of a production, including set design and lighting. That ties into McClintick's story about a director who told her to get some wigs without a detailed description of what kind, quality, etc.

Martin explained actor interviews this way: "I ask the actor, 'What do you have to do?' What is your character's favorite color? How do you see your character (posture)?"

Both agree on the importance of costumes to the level of performance.

"Actors say when they put on the costume it helps them project their character," Martin said.

When McClintick designed costumes for two university productions, actors told her putting on the costumes was like the character getting up in the morning and dressing for the day.

They have had fun with McClintick's distinctly Scotch accent and her first earthquake experience.

McClintick recalled that after the earthquake her friends were worried something had happened to her because they had not received return texts. But she had just fallen asleep.

"I am glad I was not alone at the airport when it happened."

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzeti@gmail.com.

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