CLARKSTON, Ga. — Enter the Cole Auditorium on Georgia State University’s Clarkston Campus this summer, and you might think you’ve entered a giant clothing thrift store.
Racks of costumes hang from poles suspended from the soaring stage ceiling and extend across the expansive stage floor, department-store style.
There are dozens of tuxedos — small to extra-large. There are queen’s (and king’s) fur-lined robes; bejeweled vests and harem pants; Renaissance-style “puffy” blouses and plaid flannel shirts. You’ll also find jeans, dresses, hoop skirts and gowns. Shoes, boots and slippers are stacked nearby.
Jennifer Jenkins, fine arts production manager for Georgia State’s Perimeter College, figures the costumes represent 50 years of Theatre Arts Guild productions, but she can’t name just how many pieces are in the collection.
“I do know it’s more than 2,000 pounds of clothes,” Jenkins said.
The costumes were formerly stored (maybe crammed is the word) into a small room on the second floor of the Fine Arts building. Large portions of the building are being renovated to provide more storage, better studio lesson spaces, upgraded art rooms, new offices and restrooms that comply with the with American Disabilities Act, she said.
Jenkins, who will have been involved with the Theatre Arts Guild for almost 46 years this fall, has fond memories of many of the costumes. Over the years she has sewn quite a few of the pieces.
“When I see a costume that was a ‘featured piece’ or specially made for someone, I always think of the person who wore it, so, that makes the piece special,” she said. “There are some that were treacherous or complicated to make, or someone helped decorate and they are no longer with us. Most of the costumes bring me special memories — and that makes it harder to part with some of them.”
Nevertheless, Jenkins — with the help of student assistants — is tackling just that, organizing the racks by clothing type first, then taking out superfluous items.
It’s enough to make a closet organizer tremble.
“I plan to purge about 20 percent of the collection and hope to donate them to local theater companies,” she said. “I mean, how many jeans do we actually need?”
It will be a whirlwind effort. The clothing will have to be removed before July 12, when a Conductor Showcase Summer Pops concert performed by the Community Wind Ensemble takes the Cole Auditorium stage.