Friday, June 24, 2011

Should We Let the Show Go On? (Part 1)

For much of known history, theatre productions have been synonymous with immodesty. There's no good reason for this, so I was delighted to witness a production that paid great attention to modesty, ensuring that all cast members, especially the girls, were modestly covered and yet still had freedom of movement for their active roles.

Nina Donkin and the crew of mainly teenagers produced "Psalty and the Take-Your-Time Machine" during the last week of May, giving four shows in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

The show was fun, the cast superb, and the visual display at every stop on the time machine was interesting and attractive. The dances were graceful, charming, and modest.

I remember the last time I danced on stage without adequate clothing. I took ballet classes until I was 14, then switched to tap. I didn't gain much skill with this because I was inadequately shod, but I liked one thing very much. No leotard was required. I could wear clothes for lessons.

The second year of my tap studies, the teacher planned a production featuring all branches of her dance school. Suddenly I found myself required to trot out on the town hall stage to "Singing in the Rain" wearing black shiny leggings and leotard and a sparkly waistcoat and bow tie. The costume choice didn't make any sense to me. Who goes walking in the rain with an umbrella and a leotard??

I thought, "Well, that's not so bad. I am all covered," but I didn't feel comfortable about it.

Later that year, I showed to a group of friends a photo of myself in the "Singing in the Rain" number. A guy friend looked at it and exclaimed, "Oo-oowh."

He wasn't being facetious. It was his natural reaction to the way I was dressed. I was ashamed that I'd provoked this in him and decided there and then, "No more."

The next time I performed on stage, it was my own item and I chose my costume, which was attractive, colourful, and didn't call attention to my shape.

Applying a second skin of fabric does not make you modest. Modest covering means concealing your body's shape. This can be done with flexibility, style, and visual delight, as Nina and her team amply proved in the Kids Praise show.

The "Psalty" scene that had the greatest impact on me was set in Solomon's Temple. A group of robed priests emerged and congregated stage right, opposite Psalty and the children in the time machine. Five young women wearing belted white robes and carrying glass lamps walked sedately out to form a line across the back where they swayed and gestured to the music. Centre stage, a girl danced a praise song to the Lord wearing a white pleated skirt with a skinny gold tie belt fastened around her waist, and a v-necked metallic knitted jersey over a black tee. The whole effect was stunning and very beautiful as she moved under the lights.

In the dressing room after the show, Debbie Donkin explains to Narelle the history of the Solomon's Temple outfit. Daughter Nina found in Debbie's wardrobe the sparkly jersey her mother had knitted and asked if the costume department could borrow it.
Nina says, "We wanted modesty to be a big part of this production and are thrilled that it actually ended up the way we had planned it. Having participated in many productions myself, in which the word modesty didn't exist, it was wonderful to be able to have a modesty code for rehearsals and for the show itself. Hopefully people will get lots out of this article and will try to keep their own shows modest, too!"

Next week, Modesty in Theatrical Productions Part 2, with more Psalty photos, theatrical anecdotes, and tips for choosing what to wear on stage.
Narelle lingers to capture the dressing room mood.

Backstage with cast and crew members of "Psalty and the Take-Your-Time Machine"
Signed photographs courtesy of Steven Sandbrook of Steven Sandbrook Photography.


MInTheGap said...

I remember there being a lot of things about being in productions in high school that were immodest:

Once I was at a place where there was only one dressing room, and guys and girls could easily have access while the other was changing. And the makeshift changing rooms in large classrooms, where you could see things from the otherside (and the quick changes that happen in the dark!).

But I think productions were also my first exposure to grown-up onsies- I mean bodysuits- that the girls had to wear for the cake scene in Singin' in the Rain. Sometimes these things just don't make sense.

Anonymous said...

Debbie Donkin -- attractive modesty. Martin H, PMB

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