Onstage costume change


Well-Known Member
Ok, i've basicly asked this question many times before, but I want to ask it in a different way and see if there are other ideas I overlooked (if that makes any sence...)

The show is Into The Woods. For those of you who don't know it, it takes many farrytailes, and combines them toghter. The 3 main ones are Cinderilla, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The baker and his wife. The baker and his wife was writen for this show, and it is what ties them toghter. The baker can't have a child because the witch put a curse on there house, and they need to get 4 items to stop the curse (which was put on them because the bakers father stole the beans from her garden (the beans that make the gyant beanstalk...). The baker needs Jack's cow, Little Red Riddinghood (who is also in it), hair as yellow as corn (repunzles hair, who is also the bakers sister...) and a slipper as pure as gold (Cinderillas slipper).

About 1/2 of the way through the play, the witch dose something good (I don't remember what..., i think it has to do with getting all of the beans back or something) and the witch turns from an ugly old witch into a beautiful woman. This happens within about 20 or 30 secounds AT THE MOST (the play goes very fast, from one scene to the other without a pause, and from one line to the other without a pause). So, the question is how do I change an old ugly witch into a beautiful young woman. The witch is cast as a fairly professional girl. Shes in 7th grade, but very mature (and even got a call back to the auditions when it was on brodway).

I am meating with the entire production staff sometime soon, including the costumer, and I would like to have many different ideas for how to do this effect.

I have some ideas, but they are fairly expensive, and im not sure how well it would work.

Thanks very much
Do it the beauty and the beast way, have them face the rear; build easily-removable makeup and costume, and strobe the audience just as it happens.

Or find out how other productions did it...
Thats a good idea, i hadn't thought of that....

Do you know what they did with the costume? How they got the costume off stage...

Im trying to figure out a way to have an opening in the rear of the stage (covered by a tree) where stuff could come in and out from... (thinks out loud)
If you have a cyc unit and ground rows, than the low to the stage flat would easily hide the costumes. Otherwise there is always tree stumps hollowed out or other stuff you can place to hide the costume. Than again a hook grabbing the stuff fast can also work given the right slight of the hand.

By the way, Diffusion spray paint like cans is something cheap I have been meaning to mention for a while. I have a can, something like 7 years later and it's still good. Granted you hear a spray can spraying it out but it's cheap and very dependable and lingering fog designed for photo shoots. Plus it's small in size especially for what comes out. On stage, such a burst of fog might help mask the change also. Depending upon volume and draft it might do well in helping to mask the effect even from the front. Plus it's small in sized and localized. You can spray her from off stage or some how mount it to say a staff or other actor so they pass their hand over the witch and she is covered in a dense smoke - enough to make a change. There area also pencil foggers out there but that's real money in rental I'm sure.
ship said:
By the way, Diffusion spray paint like cans is something cheap I have been meaning to mention for a while.

Thanks a lot!!! that would be really cool!!!

The director has been asking if theres a way to make the witch smoke people, and do stuff like that. I, deciding that we weren't going to do flash pots or anything like that, said no. Ill need to tell her tommorrow that this will work...

do you know how much it costs?
Production Advantage has pricing to follow. Lots of companies sell it for better or worse prices. My can reads "Diffusion" 8oz, by Pro EFX. I don't know if they still make it or if that's what's being sold anymore but I note two different types from Pro Advantage and they are from CITC not Pro EFX. Such cans if of another brand might be using different propellants, and formulations. CITC's link is http://www.citcfx.com/ , Pro EFX - at least my can is pre-internet.

Note also as I read the can that it contains propane and Iso Butane as Propellants. Flash pots at the same time this is hazing would be a bad thing. "Danger! Extremely flammable."

Down One
Up One


Nephilim said:
Do it the beauty and the beast way, have them face the rear; build easily-removable makeup and costume, and strobe the audience just as it happens.

What kind of strobes should I use. Looking around the internet I saw a lot of strobes that you could only turn on and off through the strobe its self, it didn't have anyway to hook it up to DMX, though if it was just a remote control I could do that, and just have it separate from the light board...
There are plenty of DMX-addressable strobes out there... my 'favourite' company, Chauvet, makes one or two, as do American DJ, but I believe "the" DMX strobe of choice is the Dataflash units...

Alternatively just set up some floods as 'blinders' and pulse them with a cue... saves buying a strobe.
Martin Atomic and Diversitronic 3000 strobes are about industry standards for top strobe. The AF-1000 is dated but also has quite the usefulness. Both have versions of lesser wattage and voltage. AF-1000 units need their own controller however.
Other brands of DMX controllers I'm sure would also fit the need on a rental.

I might avoid other than controlled strobes. Ones you plug or screw into a lamp base work fine in some instances but they need to collect up energy in sending out a burst. That's a lag time that is hard to depend upon when you need it. Plus they are not that powerful and it takes a while to flash again if it has any power to it.
I actually have a very diffrent idea for this........ give me one minute-- i'll post again is a minute
well this would need to be built in as part of the set, but you could build a fairly large flat, with an opening in the back. Construct a turntable and place in the opening. make it two sided, good witch on one side, bad witch on the other, when it comes time strobe the audience and rotate the turn-table. Then the actress can change clothes and come back in for lines. More info contact me
Interesting suggestion. I wish I had the time/money to use a turntable, but, alas, it wasn't in the budget (when we start working in a theater, we'll talk).

Anyway, the show went up about 4 months ago, and she had a cape and went to the back of the stage as the lights flashed around her. She dropped her cape and her fake nose off stage left and continued the scene.

It worked fairly well, besides that her second costume got caught in her top costume as she tried to through it off stage for a performance or to :oops:
When we did Into the Woods at the community theatre the witch wore her "pretty" dress under her traditional black costume. When it came time to change the stage dimmed and she took off her black costume... with a little practice it looks just fine!
^^ Yep, thats exactly what we did. Our problem was that once or twice her pretty costume would get tangled with her black costume, which was somewhat annoying and caused the witch to make some joke about her costume/transformation.

All in all, it worked fine, looked fine, and I'm perfectly happy with it.
we used latex masks that move, and then just used a double, and the actress just said her lines off stage, we used a quick burst of fog and strobe to give her a second to get off, then sent the double out, did the quick change, then another strobe at the end, they switched back. It was really pretty simple, and with the masks no one had a clue, i was the stagemanager, and i had trouble trying to watch the switch, it took a little bit to time to work out, but it was definetly worth it.
Actualy the way buty and the beast did the effect on broadway is they had a double and just before the transformation the actor secretly was switched and sang off stage while he was in a quick change. then switched back when the flash of light occurs. but for you you can think about a half coustume what you do is you build a wire frame and mount have a costume on the front you fly it in the galery and then drop it down your actress walks into it with some sort of distraction this works well with a long flowey coustume. as for the makeup i have no clue seeing as im not a makup artist. good luck

Jon Hirsh
This is an old thread but figured I'd reply anyway in case someone else needs to do something like it. Japanese Kabuki theatre is the coolest example and very simple as well. You simply make costume A such that it has folds up hiding costume B. The folds get held by ribbon or something and pulled away when the transition happens. It can be done onstage in full view of the audience and just be a bit of flair for the transition. I'm not a costumer but I'm sure a little online research would yield a little more guidance.

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