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home : columnists : columnists August 21, 2017

8/7/2017 4:00:00 AM
What's it take to costume 57 kids?
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonNoblesville costumer Norma Floyd (center) shows off the costumes she made for the “The Little Mermaid” characters of Andrina, played by Emmaline Colvin (from left); Arista, Audrey Ouillette; Allana, Addison Boles; Ursula, Addison McMillan; and Aquata, Ali Gregor.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Noblesville costumer Norma Floyd (center) shows off the costumes she made for the “The Little Mermaid” characters of Andrina, played by Emmaline Colvin (from left); Arista, Audrey Ouillette; Allana, Addison Boles; Ursula, Addison McMillan; and Aquata, Ali Gregor.

By Betsy Reason

When Noblesville's Norma Floyd is asked to be a costumer for a show at The Belfry Theatre, she goes to work figuring out exactly what the director has in mind.

Doing the costumes doesn't mean she makes every one of them. Sometimes, she scrounges for costume pieces, and sometimes actors find their own costumes. But it's her job to make sure that every cast member in the show has a costume for his or her character.

That's what she did most recently for The Belfry Apprentice Players production of Disney's "The Little Mermaid," which had a cast of 57 kids, ages 4-13. Sunday was the final show of the production's run of eight-sold out performances.

Norma said that sewing for productions like this isn't a one-woman job, but it involves parents and volunteers with skill, and stealing ideas from online.

For the Ursula character, played by my daughter, Norma created an octopus costume by making a purple dress, used ideas from Pinterest for the tentacles. Then fishing line was engineered to create movement.

While Norma didn't make Riley Hobbs' Ariel costumes, she did made costumes for Ariel's Mersisters, Andrina, played by Emmaline Colvin; Allana, played by Addison Boles; Aquata, played by Ali Gregor; and Arista, played by Audrey Ouillette.

For the Sebastian character, Jaden Sparks' mom provided tights and red shirt, and Norma added the shorts, made a long red satin vest and "crab claws" from red cloth-backed vinyl fabric and purchased a red fedora from a party store.

For Chef Louis, Liam Baumer's parents provided a white shirt, a crew member made the hat, and Norma made the chef's scarf and added a "buttoned front" to resemble a chef's coat.

"This is just a sample of the cooperation and creativity involved in the costuming of our characters in 'The Little Mermaid,'" she said.

"While I did a lot of sewing and construction of costumes, I could never have done this job alone," Norma said. Connor Spellman's family made his King Triton costume. Hobbs' grandmother made all of her Ariel costumes. Ben Ohning's mom did a great job on Flounder's "fishy" look, and a combination of parents, teens and Norma combined on Scuttle, the seagull, played by Brayden Johnson.

"My biggest job was to try to describe (director) Miss Connie's desires for the "look" she wanted for the characters in the show and coordinate the efforts of all to get them done."

Norma said, "I love being complimented for 'costuming' the show, but it was really a massive effort on the part of an entire community of'family and theater lovers

The 81-year-old seamstress -- who was found Saturday in the theater dressing room doing some emergency sewing on costumes -- began making costumes for the Hamilton County Theatre Guild's Belfry Theatre nearly 10 years ago.

"I accidently got into it, and they don't want to let me quit," the costumer once told me in an interview several years ago. She doesn't know how many costumes she's made for The Belfry Theatre.

Norma once told me that the first time she sat down at a sewing machine was just before graduation in 1953. "My mother and I bought fabric and patterns and made my college wardrobe," the graduate of Pharr San Juan Alamo High School in Pharr, Texas, once told me. Two years later, she married and started a family, with three girls and three boys.

Her kids were involved in all kinds of activities, including plays, choirs and spring flings. And she was always there, washing football uniforms and sewing costumes. But mostly sewing costumes. She made all kinds of costumes for her kids and then her grandkids. She made Cinderella's ball gown, rag dress and wedding dress for her granddaughter Kara Stewart DeMerchant, a then sixth-grader playing the lead role at Carmel's Orchard Park Elementary School. About seven years ago at The Belfry, she made 100 costumes for a preschool program that her daughter, Noblesville's Deborah Stewart, was directing.

The Belfry was Norma's first time making costumes for community theater. During her first show, she helped Mariliyn Dearman make costumes for "Phantom of the Country Opera" in the 2007-08 season. She made costumes for "The Two Orphans" that same season, and her 1700s-era costumes earned her an Encore Association Award in 2008.

A week ago on Sunday, Deborah came out to The Belfry to see all of the costumes that her mom made and coordinated for "The Little Mermaid."

Today, she starts another show; she's agreed to be the costumer for "Done to Death," a mystery comedy directed by Nancy Lafferty and begins rehearsals today at The Belfry.

Norma said someone at the theater asked her the other day, "What do you do when you're not sewing around the clock, getting costumes ready for dress rehearsal?"

Well....She paints, she enjoys her flower beds, and she has been transcribing notes that her mother left from her handwritten assortment of piece of papers and notebooks to the community. "Plus, I write my own little 'stories' about my 'adventures' with life," and she Facebooks.

Norma said, "I laugh when I think about all of the time I would have when I retired. I have no patience ith anyone who is 'bored' and sits around with folded hands."

Norma said, "I have an uncounted number of unfinished projects at which I occasionally "look," places I want to go, people I want to see, and a bucket list a mile long. And I occasionally sit in my rocking chair on my front porch and just enjoy being alive."

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, August 7, 2017
Article comment by: Deborah Stewart

Norma is amazing and never quits! Thanks for the sweet article.

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