Costume sale draws shoppers to theater

Posted Oct. 19, 2008, at 8:55 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:17 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — With racks and stacks and piles of quirky and delectable costumery to browse through, the lobby of Penobscot Theatre on Saturday was an irresistible delight for pre-Halloween shoppers and others with an eye for dress-up drama. Shortly after the sale opened at 10 a.m., the lobby was crowded with bargain hunters of all ages searching through the eclectic assortment of stuff.

Nine-year-old Emma McAnerlin of Newport had stationed herself at a low table crowded with baskets of tangled jewelry and bins of hats. Multiple strands of pink and white beads looped around her neck and down the front of her sweat shirt as she tried on a basketlike chapeau of white straw, blue flowers and white ribbons, sprinkled with pearls and glitter.

“I feel very old-ladyish in this hat,” she said, pursing her lips. “Do I look like an old lady?” Reassured that she did, Emma confided that she had decided to be an old lady for Halloween, but only after happening upon the accessories table.

“I was also thinking about being Shakespeare,” she commented, indicating with orange-painted fingernails a broad, drooping velvet cap worthy of the Bard.

On the other side of the lobby, 19-year-old Carl White of Orono was trying on a fringed and metal-riveted black leather vest. A second-year student at the University of Maine, White said he belongs to the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international group dedicated to reviving the arts and battle skills of medieval Europe.

“I’m searching for garb,” he said, inspecting the heavy vest closely. It had a $20 price tag. “We have to have garb from the medieval time,” he said.

White performs fencing demonstrations with the “light rapier,” a lightweight sword. The Society for Creative Anachronism’s most recent demonstration was at Fort Knox in Prospect.

Outside on the sidewalk, teenage girls clad in crisp Edwardian tea suits, sweeping prairie skirts and rich Elizabethan gowns posed and pranced, drawing friendly waves, curious looks and customers to the costume sale. Carl White’s sister Elizabeth, 13, said she participated in the Penobscot Theatre’s summer camp program and provided backstage support for the recent production of “On Golden Pond.”

“Now I’m looking for a costume for ‘Gypsy,’” she said. The 1959 Stephen Sondheim musical will be performed this winter by the Orono High School drama team.

Penobscot Theatre outreach director Joye Cook-Levy, wife of artistic director Scott Levy, said she hopes the costume sale will become an annual event. The selection on display Saturday of animal costumes, 1960s polyester dresses, velvet-collared smoking jackets, fur-trimmed bathrobes, orange jumpsuits, sequined tutus and more is just the beginning, she said. Despite a sell-off last fall, the theater’s upstairs storage areas remain crowded with the wearable remains of seasons long past.

“We have so much Shakespeare, it’s amazing,” Cook-Levy said, nodding toward an overburdened rack of doublets and pantaloons.

Proceeds from the sale will support the theater’s operating costs.

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