The subject of “What to Wear” is one that is common to all of us within our western society, and more so to the consumerist environment in which we live.
Last Friday evening, with a select group of friends, I had the pleasure to attend the Off-Broadway tour of the play “Love, Loss and What I Wore“.
The Off-Broadway play first appeared at the Westside Theatre in NYC in October 2009 where it played more than 900 performances, broke that box office’s records and won the 2010 Drama Desk Award for “Best Unique Theatrical Experience. More than 100 actresses have performed in the show Off-Broadway, including Samantha Bee, Alexis Bledel, Kristin Chenoweth, Tyne Daly, Fran Drescher, Janeane Garofalo, Melissa Joan Hart, Jane Lynch, Rosie O’Donnell, Rhea Perlman, Caroline Rhea, Doris Roberts, Brooke Shields, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Rita Wilson and many more.In addition to its Off-Broadway run, Love, Loss, and What I Wore has been produced in more than eight countries and in cities throughout the United States.
The show talks about in several chapters about recollections of garments, outfits, but more so remembrances of what they wore or “had-on” on the day or the time something special happened to each one of the characters. In this tour, the talented troupe of five women with very different personalities and backgrounds, share several funny moments, special times in life, emotional rollercoaster situations, favorite clothing narrations, childhood memories, and descriptions of clothing and garments that either were their favorites…or were challenges. Among the many stories, my favorite of all, and perhaps the funniest part of the show, was a chapter called “The Purse”, delivered with the skill of a surgeon by the wry and tone-perfect Zuzanna Szadkowski.
This is the show’s return visit at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts complex within what is called the “Scottsdale Mall” in the middle of the Civic Center in Scottsdale.
The play is performed from June 4 to June 16 at one of my favorite venues in the city, the Virginia Piper Theater. The large, raked audience seating has tremendous acoustics and great views due to the steep rake of the forum, and made the perfect space for this intimate and wide-ranging series of revealing stories. The modern and identifying performance seemed to be a perfect match for the modern and elegant space.
Dressed in differing versions of all-black, seated on simple silver stools with uniform cubic footrests and reading pads, and accompanied by expansive visual projections behind the ensemble, the cast transports you via reading, hand gestures and vocalization to those places and times with which many of us can readily identify. Sometimes the readings were really funny, while others invoked emotion and intensity.
Of all surprises I’ve had in the last few years, I was invited to the play and had even the chance to interview and even meet some of the cast members.
The current cast is as follows:
– Dee Hoty (Mamma Mia!)
– Sabrina LeBeauf (The Cosby Show)
– Amanda Setton* (The Mindy Project)
– Zuzanna Szadkowski (Gossip Girl)
– Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island)
My first phone interview was scheduled with Ms. Amanda Setton.
Amanda is best known for her roles as “Penelope Shafai” on the TV show “Gossip Girl,” more recently as Shauna Dicanio on FOX’s “The Mindy Project“, and as Kimberly Andrews on ABC’s “One Life to Live“. Her film credits include “Sex and The City”, “What Happens In Vegas” and independent features “Black Dog Red Dog“and “That Thing With The Cat“. Additional television credits include guest starring roles on “Mercy” and “Blue Bloods”. Amanda just finished shooting a CBS pilot with Robin Williams, “The Crazy Ones“. She made her New York theatre debut in the Off-Broadway production of Love, Loss and What I Wore. Amanda received a BA in theatre from “Ithaca College“ and completed the 2 year Meisner program at The Actors Workshop of Ithaca.
I wanted to hear all about being a young star, but more so, I wanted to hear about her favorite piece of clothing, her style and how she defined herself in terms of style and fashion;
As we spoke, she shared that she found her style originated with a series of memories from her mother and grandmother.
– Amanda: ” I grew up with style being very influential to me, not so much fashion, per-se, I did not grow-up, really, around branding, or you know, high-end labels. My very, very stylish grandmother was who really imparted her style, wisdom, and beauty tips on me.”
She is a city girl that learned the importance of accessories when it comes to defining her style. From vintage to new modern and contemporary jewels, she defines her looks. Through the years, she learned that “style” and “fashion” are different.
When I asked her about colors, she stated that her closet is full of: black, navy, beige, eggplant, maroon, dark green – deep rich colors – but she has a pop of brightness here and there for variety. When it comes to shoes, I wanted to know her favorites.
– Amanda: “I have a lot of boots, I LOVE boots. I find them so comfortable, and a lot of nice heels… I do love shoes! I do not spend a lot of money on shoes, but I enjoy a good pair of shoes, for sure!”
Now, the big question:
– Oscar: “Do you remember your best outfit growing up, or your favorite piece of clothing? Which one was it, can you describe it, and describe the emotions attached to it?”
– Amanda: “Oh, my god! At the end of high school, beginning of college, I had this coat, it was a tweed coat, and it was black, white and yellow tweed. It looked very spotty all over the place……and I wore that coat into the ground! I actually still have it, because I loved it so much. I used to wear it with big dark sunglassses, big black furry boots all over my college campus. Who do I think I was? It’s so ridiculous, but I absolutely loved that coat- had this big collar that went up to my ears. I felt fabulous, and I felt like… ‘Hey, I have some style going on!”
A very fresh, young persona with not a hint of diva or being a clichéd Hollywood brat. It was a total pleasure to meet her, better yet come back stage, where she received me with open arms.
The second interview I had scheduled was with another cast member that I actually knew a bit about.
Growing up in South America, we had few American sitcoms in Spanish, but I was aware of Gilligan’s Island, but never followed the show. I think I saw one or two episodes of Gilligan’s Island growing up and remembered the well-known character Mary Ann played by “Dawn Wells”.
A brief 15-minute scheduled interview ended up extending to a 45 minute wonderful conversation where she told me, in a very funny and charming way, how she had no idea what BLOG or a TWEET was. But all and all, she wanted to be part of the future and BLOG and TWEET, so here we were on the phone…talking about her Scottsdale performance of the show.
During our conversation we talked about her famous “short-shorts” which her character wore during the “Gilligan’s Island” series, and how much of a departure those were for that time.
– Dawn: “I was very conscious, I was “Miss Nevada” in the “Miss America” pageant, and I was very conscious of my body. I guess wearing something that flatters my figure, and I think it was interesting that in “Gilligan’s Island” they had me in short-shorts, and little bit of midriff – so, it was the first time shorts were ever on television. It was way before, uhm, the cut-off, the Daisy-Dukes, and all of that. We were not allowed to show my naval.”
“That was against the censorship, and Ginger could not show any cleavage. So, they had me over in short-shorts, and I took over designing them, because I am tiny – I’m short – I structured the shorts to kind of come-up on the side of my hips, so my legs look longer; and I have them deep-down on the sides, so they came down like a little “V’ so they covered my naval. I still have them and adore them.”
We also talked about that the character Mary Ann she played, who was the girl every boy in America wanted to have as a girlfriend (or perhaps marry?).
– Dawn: “I was quoted once; Oh, boy,…I was that first crush – I was sort of the first experience for a young 14 to 16 year-old-boy. A sex-appeal but not a ‘Playboy’. A ‘Playboy’, you would say a ‘Play-bunny’ for the 14.”
– Dawn: “Well, Ginger was the hottie, Ginger was this glamorous/sexy/Marilyn Monroe-kind-of-person. I think the reason I got the most fans was because I was in short-shorts. The producer was smart enough to put the little-girl-next-door from Kansas (that was my character) in shorts.”
Her love of necklines are part of her closet, and about colors, she shared some insight into her style.
– Dawn: “Well, if you open my closet, you will find white a lot, I am always tan and I love white. I love to wear white, I wear black when I travel because of course, you know it is the easiest color to travel, because of course it is easiest thing to wear. I was standing in line at an airport the other day and someone said “Is this plane going to California or to New York City, because everybody standing in line is in black?” – which I think is very funny. I like strong colors, I like a real hot pink, or a real bright yellow, and I like tangerine. I like something that makes my skin glow, and you find colors in my closet a lot.”
How about materials and cuts?
– Dawn: “I do not go sleeveless, I never have, I have a thing about my arms. My arms have taken the best of me. Even in “Gilligan’s Island”, I made sure that the sleeve went to my elbow, I am very conscious of that. I think you will find something kind of figure-flattering – not necessarily at my age – not the cinched waist so much, but I have pretty legs. So I think…something that shows your legs. I think pants…I am tiny, I am short – I mean, I am 5′-4″ – so I love the baggy kind of pants and a kind of jacket, but I can’t wear it. It looks like somebody sat on me, so I am very conscious of something that moves, the fabric that moves…I like crepe/wool; I like a soft silk; .I like a pretty cotton blouse; more form-fitting – something that clings to your body, a little bit more than stiff.”
She continued with a style which we both agreed on.
– Dawn: “…I like a man’s shirt. I like a white man’s shirt under a blazer, but I like the glamour. If I was to go and do something, I’d wear a great sequin blazer; I would wear with Levi’s…I love it. I feel good in it.”
When talking about her favorite piece of garment she continued;
– Dawn: “Color was very important to me and I had a green blouse. It was not pally green, not dark green, but my eyes turned green when I wore it and kinda fit my body. And everytime I wore it something wonderful happened. I was teaching an actors bootcamp not long ago, and I told them, ‘You know, you need to wear something, when you go into an audition, or when you go some place special, that makes you feel good.”
Ms. Wells is using her fame and stardom to help others via non-profit foundations that help to educate new generations.
She is the chair woman of the “Terry Lee Wells Foundation” in Reno where they just opened a new museum.
In addition to that she sits within “Stephens College” an all-women’s college with a Fashion Department that is one of the best in the country;
The backstage meet-and-greet with the cast was a kind and a personal one. Never in my wildest dreams, did I think that I was to meet a true Hollywood star. A staple of modern Americana and a woman that is one of the most recognized faces in early American television, with a grace of a star, with a charm and welcoming demeanor. I was lucky to be able to talk to her and spend few minutes backstage. One of those moments to never forget.
I guess my 45+ minute conversation with Dawn created a connection and a point of reference for her, so as we walked into the room, I could hear her from the background; “Where is Oscar, where is Oscar? I am expecting to meet him, is he here yet?”
An experience like no other.
The play is in town from now until June 16, 2013 and is one not to be missed. Click here for tickets, or through (480) 499-TKTS (8587). A group discount is available when purchasing 10 or more tickets in one order, so no way to miss it.
Thank you to the Scottsdale Cultural Council (SCC), to Mr. Bill Thompson and the entire staff of the Scottsdale Center of Performing Arts. A great evening full of laughs and great new friends, surrounding a play that talks about clothing, at the end is as about;
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