Civic Theatre gives away its costumes

Come and get it

By Dagney C. Ernest | Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Dagney C. Ernest Camden Civic Theatre’s Foner Curtis wears a World War II metal “turtle” helmet while a mannequin sports a bovine mask in the troupe’s costume loft in Rockland.

Rockland — Knightly helmets and taffeta skirts, leather luggage and feathered caps fill more than half the first floor of the former Quilt Divas/Spear’s building and hardware store at 607 Main St. … and Camden Civic Theatre invites other troupes and the public at large to take them home.

CCT will hold Loft Give-Away Days Saturdays, July 8 and 15, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. While donations to the group’s treasury are certainly welcome, this is not a sale — everything must go.

“The idea is to move the materials to people who can use them best: any community theater that’s interested, any of the school theaters interested,” said longtime member Foner Curtis. “The only proviso is, you select what you want and you take it with you.”

For some 10 years, the community theater group has stored costumes, fabrics and hand props in the space, thanks to the generosity of owner Everett Spear, but the time has come to clear it all out.

“Everett is one of these local heroes that really supports the arts — he supported it when his kids were doing it and he’s supported it when his kids weren’t doing it,” said Curtis, who acted, directed, produced and more for decades.

Curtis became CCT’s costume master when his sister, Ellen Curtis, who works with the Camden-Rockport Middle School theatricals, and Spear made the costume “loft” arrangement. While Quilt Divas was in operation, a wall separated the theater gear from the store. The wall is gone and once the costumes are, too, the space will be easier to rent.

It’s not easy to say the troupe’s time has come and gone, and the few remaining board members have not made that call, but its last production was in 2013. CCT, which will mark the 50th anniversary of its founding next year, held a reunion on the third floor of the Camden Opera House in 2015; a call to meet last year resulted in less than a quorum in attendance.

Camden Civic Theatre, and its costume loft, have a storied history. Costumes et al had been storied in the opera house, in the second floor of a Pearl Street barn and in a couple of Rockland locations before landing in the Spear building. The troupe has moved around, as well. After decades at the Camden Opera House, it struggled after the opera house transitioned from being a rental to a presenting venue.

“The opera house has just gotten too expensive for us,” said Curtis. “It’s really not made for nonprofits anymore. And the high school is even more expensive.”

The community theater troupe experimented with producing shows out of town, but its last mounted production, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” took place at the Camden Opera House.

The costumes include many a donated party dress, men’s suits, shoes, hats and coats, as well as more fanciful duds made expressly for one of the hundreds of shows CCT produced over the years. There are some truly vintage pieces, most too small for 21st-century Americans.

“We’ve got a lot of World War II and some formal things, but they’re all small, and even the boys in middle school they don’t fit,” said Curtis.

He recalled that in the 1980s, “these dear old ladies” would bring him their late husbands' finery and he would take them, hoping they’d fit someone.

“And she’d give me something that was, like, 28 Regular and it’s in immaculate condition, tails and the rest of that,” he said.

And there are garments even older for the taking, “several pieces that are genuine, 100-plus years old and so fragile, but they make excellent patterns,” he said.

Curtis is a member of the local Society for Creative Anachronism living history contingent and plans to take any medieval or Renaissance costumes for SCA use, “though no more than I can store in my garage.” And he has heard from a few theater groups already about the give-away.

“I just heard from Kathleen Brown, who’s working with the Theater at Monmouth, who said she’s definitely interested, and Midcoast Actor’s Studio in Belfast,” he said.

And one does not have to be a thespian to participate. The Loft Give-Away Days are open to everybody.

“If anybody is anticipating Halloween, this might be a time to come down,” he said.

There also is at least one fireplace front and a variety of hand props — although the literal latter are already spoken for. CCT’s box of fake arms and rubber masks is already at the opera house; Curtis said manager Kerry Hadley kept borrowing it and a couple of years ago, she asked if it could just stay at the opera house.

“I said, 'you’d be doing me a favor!' She’s got custody of those, plus all the spare furniture on the fourth floor,” said Curtis.

He’s told technical director Dave Morrison that if anybody needs any of it, just take it from the attic.

“It’s nice if we get a mention in the program, but people have been kind enough to us through the years, and we reciprocate,” he said.

Among the multiple sets in the loft for give-away are a stack of sombreros that haven’t see stage light in 35 years; and numerous public safety uniforms.

“We have a wide variety, including modern ones. Every time the Camden police or fire departments would change their uniform, we’d get all the cast-offs,” he said.

Next to a wall of fabric, there are lots of shoes, “some of which are period shoes and quite hard to find,” Curtis said. And there are hats, hats and more hats, “from the day where everybody wore a hat when you crossed the threshold  — women, men, boys and girls!”

The Camden Civic Theatre remainders hope to see it all cross the threshold July 8 and 15; what doesn’t will go to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. CCT Treasurer Paul Weintraub will be on hand with a cash box for anyone who wants to give a donation to the nonprofit troupe, but “we’re not tagging any of it,” said Curtis.

“The reality is, you want those 40 uniforms, you load them right in the car and take them, they’re gone,” he said. “When we get down far enough, they can have the racks, as well!”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Bridget & Richard Qualey/Stetson | Jul 05, 2017 19:50

It is SO sad to hear that CCT's costume collection and even possibly their existence are coming to an end. I've enjoyed many, many of their shows and give all involved a standing ovation for their community offerings over the years. Bravo/a! all. You included Dagney!



If you wish to comment, please login.

Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
Email Me

Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for more than 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

Recent Stories by Dagney C. Ernest