Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Wardrobe Supervisor Mary Montijo

By Elspeth Sweatman 

Mary (Beatriz Miranda) and Fred (Oliver Shirley) in A.C.T.'s 
production of A Christmas CarolPhoto by Kevin Berne.

A Christmas Carol was the first production Wardrobe Supervisor Mary Montijo worked on when she joined A.C.T. 12 years ago, and it remains one of the most challenging. “It’s an exercise in controlled chaos,” she says. “There are so many actors—usually 50, with more than half of them from the Young Conservatory—and so many costumes: more than 1,000 individual pieces!” Before the “controlled chaos” of this year’s Carol began, we sat down with Montijo to learn more about the life of a wardrobe supervisor.

For someone not in theater, what does a wardrobe supervisor do?

In a nutshell, we make sure every actor is always in the right costume, head-to-toe, at every point throughout the show. There’s a lot more to it than that, though. Here at A.C.T., the wardrobe supervisor acts as a liaison between the costume designer, the costume shop, and the actors.

What does that mean? 

We convey information to the actors for each costume look, and make sure the designer’s vision is followed throughout the run of the show. We also work with stage management to set up a costume flow—so we know where every costume piece is throughout the show—and work with the actors to choreograph quick-changes. Sometimes costumes need to be “quick-rigged” in order to make the costume changes in the allotted time—often only seconds!

 What about once the show is up and running?

The wardrobe supervisor is in charge of maintaining the costumes: repairs, laundry, arranging for dry-cleaning. And once the show closes, we oversee the organizing and packing of the costumes, either for transport back to the costume shop, or on to the next venue.

Costumes for A.C.T.'s production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.

What are some of your favorite shows that you have worked on?
There are so many I’ve really enjoyed: Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter (2009), Arcadia (2013), Indian Ink (2015), and A Little Night Music (2015). But I would have to say my favorite was Old Hats (2014).

Is there anything else about wardrobe supervising that you would like people to know?

You will never need a gym membership! I make so many trips up and down stairs from the dressing rooms in the basement to the stage level, carrying baskets of costumes, that I get a good workout every performance.

A Christmas Carol
runs through December 24 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website. For more information about A.C.T.’s costume shop, click here.

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