“These are not coveralls.” From the white plastic bag I pull out beige pants and tops. Scrubs? Cleaning garment? Prison outfits? One thing is certain: these are not coveralls. And I need coveralls. In less than 2 hours the cast of the show I direct will hit the stage. In coveralls.
In 2016 I started a new group: the Ferocious Four. A no-male cast improvising an action-themed story: it has been a life changing project. Not the least because of the type of performers it attracted. The current Amsterdam cast consists of 5 of the best improvisers around and I am lucky to call them my best friends.
But the format also does something to temporary festival casts. I see how it empowers non-male performers, it challenges us to move, to fight, to chase, to know our shit and to own it. I bring all the lessons from 3 years working on it with the original Amsterdam cast. High on the list of lessons is ‘wear a coverall’.
Why? Because it makes a huge impact. Wearing a coverall makes you stand different, move different and feel different. Improv is often so brainy (listening to words, thinking of a format, imagining driving a car) that I will take any opportunity to make players have a bodily experience. For instance: through clothing.
Coveralls have everything normal women’s clothing is lacking: comfort, space, sturdiness, pockets, flexibility and all over coverage. It gives tremendous freedom and that boosts the improv (especially the physicality).
When any improv company asks me to direct this format, I will ask for coveralls for the entire cast. Quite a request but every time with amazing result: from bright orange coveralls by Rapid Fire Theatre to no less than 9 blue coveralls by TAG Vienna.
Back to the white bag lacking coveralls. I am getting a little nervous. How am I going to explain to the ITI conference that these costumes won’t do? That coveralls are its own category? That it will just not be the same without them (and not sound like a total diva)?
I am lucky though: my contact person is Jamie of Vancouver Theatresports and she clearly understands costumes. Without hesitation she sprints to a store, negotiates a flexible return policy for $400 worth of brand new coveralls and shows up just 20 minutes later with beautiful navy outfits in different sizes.
My cast looks absolutely killer and these 5 ladies all show amazing stuff in the 2 shows we get to play together. Anyone asking (and not asking) will hear from me how these performances were my absolute highlight of the ITI conference.
One of the players however shares with me a different highlight: “The moment backstage when I put on my coverall and slid my hands in my pockets. That feeling. So… Good.”