Costume Designer Brings The Gift To ‘Laughter’

Kimberly Patterson as Joanna Lyppiatt in Present Laughter (photo by Mickey Elliot)

As our gift from Little Fish Theatre to you this holiday season, we’re presenting a classic Noel Coward farce, Present Laughter, and it’s getting great reviews.

The actors are getting lots of kudos, and they deserve them. Some folks behind the scenes are also getting kudos, such as the costume designer, Adriana Lambarri. Adriana is fairly new to Little Fish, having started with Beyond Therapy at the end of last summer. She’s designed for every show since but she sure didn’t expect it to turn out that way. In fact, she didn’t even start her career as a costume designer.

Adriana has a degree in fashion design and worked in the fashion industry for more than six years, but she felt a need to push her creativity a bit more. So when some friends decided to produce a small independent horror film, she begged them to let her design the costumes. The costumes turned out fine – and she liked it – so she designed for some more independent films. Through that work she met some people who also did theatre, so she started designing for the stage, as well.

She ended up at Little Fish when her friend Drew Shirley (you’ve seen him in Shakespeare by the Sea and Bach at Leipzig) asked her to design the costumes for No Exit, which he was directing for our mid-week series. (Fun fact about Drew: he was the assistant director of that first independent horror film that started Adriana in costume design.)

She showed up on audition day at the theatre to help Drew, where she met Stephanie Coltrin, managing director of Little Fish, who talked her into doing the costumes for Beyond Therapy, as well. (Fun fact: she borrowed a lot of the costumes for Beyond Therapy from her parents.) That’s how it works at Little Fish. You get so much more than what you sign up for. I guess we didn’t scare her off, because she went on to design for Twisted, Spooky, Creepy, and finally, Present Laughter.

Present Laughter presented quite a challenge. There are 11 characters in period costumes that need to reflect the upper-class status of those characters, with multiple costume changes for each. Adriana had to buy lots of expensive looking period clothing, cheap. Exactly how did she do it?

First, she went to director Jim Rice for his vision. His vision was The Thin Man. She did some research to get ideas then went shopping. Thrift stores are always the first stop, but in this case even some of the thrift shops were too pricey for her budget. And not everything could be acquired for a couple of dollars at a thrift store.

For some special items, she went shopping with the actors to make sure everything fit and also fit with the director’s vision. In particular, the character of Joanna Lyppiatt (played by Kimberly Patterson) makes a grand entrance wearing a stunning evening gown. Adriana looked at the remaining budget, and thought, How am I going to make this work? She and Kimberly scoured the vintage clothing stores in Hollywood and Burbank, and finally, late in the afternoon of a long Sunday of shopping, the heavens parted, angels sang, and the perfect dress descended into her hands. To be honest, it’s not an evening gown, so, as Adriana puts it, she had to be a bit of a MacGyver to make it the glamorous statement the script required.

Present Laughter runs through December 15. It’s funny, the clothes are beautiful, and it’s the perfect antidote to all that holiday stress. And if you like Adriana’s costume designs, you’ll get to see some more when Pick of the Vine opens in January. Tickets for both are available on our website, www.littlefishtheatre.org. spt

Bach is Back at Little Fish

The cast of Bach at Leipzig

For your theater-going pleasure this month, we are running three shows in our little space. We have two mid-week shows in October because it’s time for Twisted, Spooky, Creepy (one-acts in the spirit of Halloween). Only $20, there are only six performances (including Saturday 10/20 at 11 p.m. for some late night heebie-jeebies) that start the week after our other mid-week show, Last Train to Nibroc(a love story for all you lovers out there), closes. I’m sure we’ll have no trouble convincing you to go see those two shows.

To all of you who think Bach at Leipzig, our mainstage show, sounds like something you can miss, let’s talk about that. First of all, it’s a comedy, and you know you need a laugh. Second, it’s an all-male cast, and who doesn’t love to see a bunch of good-looking guys dressed in velvet (let’s hope for cooler weather). And third, it’s got Dave Graham! And you know Dave! He’s been acting and directing for Shakespeare by the Sea since 2003, and he’s been seen earlier this year at Little Fish in The Love List with Bert Pigg (who is also in Bach at Leipzig) and in several other Little Fish shows. We count on Dave for a lot of things besides his creative talents; he maintains our computer network and fixes the little things that break around the theater. He’s not exactly a San Pedro native (he’s from Georgia) and he doesn’t live in San Pedro, but he should probably move here considering how much time he puts in at SBTS and LFT (he’s a Little Fish company member, volunteers as house manager, and is on the Board of Directors for SBTS).

Why does he keep doing it? He says it’s all about the personal relationships he’s formed with the people. When you find a bunch of people who are committed to producing quality work and, besides that, are just fun to be with, you go out of your way to work with them. Plus, he likes the pieces we choose to produce at Little Fish. He comes to all the shows, even if he’s not involved in the production, not only to show support, but because he wants to see them. Bach at Leipzig, he assures us, is not mindless entertainment but will really engage the audience. That doesn’t mean it’s serious. It’s a comedy. It just means that your brain will be as tickled as your funny bone. You don’t need to be a fan of Bach. You don’t even need to know who Bach is. You just need to come down to the theater and let Dave entertain you for a couple of hours.

The rest of the cast members may be recognizable to you, too. Drew Shirley, Garrett Replogle and Cylan Brown have done SBTS shows, and Drew just finished directing No Exit at LFT. Don Schlossman has acted and directed at Little Fish, most recently directing Beyond Therapy. Bert Pigg has done a couple of shows with Dave at LFT. What’s it like working with this cast of big personalities and testosterone? According to director Stephanie Coltrin, “Chaos in the best possible way.” Their personalities work onstage and off, and the show really zings with their great rapport.

By the way, Stephanie recently won a Scenie award (www.stagescenela.com) for directing Panache earlier this year, and Bert won a Scenie for directing Loot in 2011. Both of the casts won Scenies, too. What, you say you didn’t see those shows? Well, now, those were missed opportunities, weren’t they? Here at Little Fish, we’re doing award-winning work, and if Bach at Leipzig wins an award and you miss it, too, you’ll be thinking, “There’s another award-winning show at Little Fish that I could have seen but didn’t.” Don’t let that happen to you. spt

Complete schedule and tickets available at www.littlefishtheatre.org.