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Costuming is sew much fun for local theater volunteer

By Judy Hamilton
Kenny Kemp
Costumer Kit Reed (right) helps Charleston Catholic High School drama club students Jessica Light (left) and Anna Hamilton Schles with their costumes as Babette the feather duster and Mrs. Potts the teapot for the group's production of "Beauty and the Beast" this weekend.
Kenny Kemp Kit Reed works on a costume at the Children's Theatre of Charleston workshop on the West Side. She has made thousands of costumes for local theater groups in the past decade.

WANT TO GO?

"Beauty and the Beast," presented by Charleston Catholic High School Drama Club

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

WHERE: Charleston Catholic commons, corner of Virginia East and Dunbar Streets

TICKETS: Adults $6, students $4 INFO: Call 304-342-8415

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you've struggled to get outfitted for Halloween festivities, consider this, Kit Reed has created thousands of costumes in the past decade.

Reed gestures to the double rows of colorful costumes that surround her at the Children's Theatre of Charleston workshop and says with a broad smile, "This is my idea of heaven."

Reed is in her ninth season as costumer for Children's Theatre of Charleston and has been the costumer for numerous other plays in the area, including Albans Arts Center and Charleston Stage Company productions. Reed has also served as president of the Children's Theatre and on their Board of Directors.

She said that every Children's Theatre production has a cast of about 50 to 75 characters and usually at least one costume change is required per actor. This quickly adds up to thousands of outfits.

Costuming is just a hobby for the hard-working Reed. She works full-time in the Infection Prevention Department at Charleston Area Medical Center and has since 1986. She is certified in infection control and completed her Masters degree in Public Health in 2000.

Reed is also active in the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, both locally and nationally, and has served in numerous leadership roles.

You might ask, why does this busy woman add volunteer costuming duties to her already full life?

"I enjoy it. The inner joy I get from watching the kids grow up. They get involved, gain confidence and then blossom. They grow into these beautiful human beings. It's just really rewarding," Reed said.

She began volunteering at Children's Theatre when her son, Ethan, a junior at Capitol High School, became active in the group. She had no prior experience in the craft and learned through doing.

"I learned to sew at home with my mom, and I had home economics back when it was part of our education. I basically learned costuming at Children's Theatre. Kelly Strom taught me a lot. I also study and research a lot on design and how to make it happen. I like the fantasy, whimsical productions the most. I like lots of color," Reed said.

Strom has directed numerous plays in Charleston and teaches acting classes through Strom Studios at Unity of Kanawha Valley. She and Reed both hail from the same neighborhood in Preston County's Kingwood.

Reed says her favorite and most challenging production to costume was "Beauty and the Beast Jr." from Children's Theatre's 2010-11 season. She is pleased that the costumes are being borrowed for Charleston Catholic High School Drama Club's production on Friday and Saturday.

Former Capitol High School media and special effects teacher Robert "RJ" Haddy created the beast mask through a commission by Children's Theatre. Haddy became a star on the reality show "Face Off," which airs on the SyFy network. He shares creative space with the Children's Theatre.

"Robert Haddy gives me lots of ideas," Reed said.

Reed knows Josh Fix, the Charleston Catholic Drama Club director, through her work as costumer for last year's Charleston Stage Company production of "Picasso at the Lapin Agile."

"I've used her costumes here twice, and at least two to three times I've been costumed by her for other productions. Kit's the go-to person in Charleston if you have customizing issues," Fix said.

"Children's Theatre is good about sharing, so it adds to the theatrical capital investment we're building in Charleston," he added.

Fix said that the average consumer has no idea how expensive it is to a make a costume or the number of hours dedicated to constructing a costume.

Reed's connections illustrate the close relationships that exist between people in the Charleston theater community.

"I did the costumes for 'Picasso.' It was a production by director Tim Mace. He always challenges me. For 'Picasso,' the men were in shades of red and the women in shades of blue.

"He did 'The Hobbit,' too, for Children's Theatre this spring. He wanted everything in earth tones. He sees color in the way I do and is fun to work with," Reed said.

"I did the costuming for 'Wind in the Willows' at the Alban Arts Center, and we just finished 'Seussical The Musical Jr.' with Children's Theatre. I really enjoyed that. It ranked up there pretty high, probably with 'Beauty and the Beast Jr.,'" Reed said.

Reed said that she enjoys costume research and is fortunate that her husband, Chris Reed, and son are supportive of her costuming passion.

"We've gone to New York City a few times to do research. When the Stage Company was still here, I did the costumes for 'Proof.' I went to a convent in the Bronx to research their clothing. The nuns gave me the pattern for their habits. I bought all my fabric for the costumes in New York.

"I need to plan another trip to New York," Reed said with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

Reed is currently busy planning costumes for Children Theatre's next show, "Christmas in the Land of Oz" which will be performed Dec. 12-15 at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater. Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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