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Students head up costume crew for 'Little Mermaid,' featuring 50 actors from Feb. 21-29

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Emily Martine, head of costumes for 'The Little Mermaid,' attaching plastic bubbles onto one of Ariel's costumes. Mark your calendars for Feb. 21-29 and get ready to swim with the mermaids when the Rex Putnam High School Performing Arts Department's production of "The Little Mermaid" floods the Main Auditorium with singing sea creatures.

The musical, directed by Kelley Marchant, is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film. It features 50 actors who have two to four costume changes each. Luckily, Rex Putnam senior Emily Martine and her crew of students and parents are ready to take on the challenge of putting clothes on bodies.

With a cast of teens and a few children, the results could be chaotic — the secret to making it all work? Organization, organization, organization.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Alex Mehigan and Maddy Szidon discuss adding tentacles to one of the costumes for Ursula in 'The Little Mermaid.'Three different high schools loaned costumes from their past productions, so when those costumes arrived, Martine started a spreadsheet so she knows which costumes came from Southridge, West Linn and Reynolds high schools.

"I turned into the person who knows what's going on," Martine said.

Because the show has multiple characters, the process of figuring out what fits each character and what looks good "helped me with my creativity," she said.

"There was a lot of learning about what might fit and what didn't fit and what I would have to do to make it fit," Martine said.

"I've learned how to do things I don't regularly do, like hand-sewing lights on all the eel costumes," she said. The most fun is "seeing people's reactions to their costumes."

In addition to the challenge of making sure everyone has the correct costume, is the fact that Martine is graduating early. But she will still be involved once the musical opens, because "I'm the one who knows where everything is."

Costuming Ariel

Those familiar with the story know that Ariel is the title character and needs some very specific costumes. She begins the play as a mermaid, then trades her tail for legs and needs a ball gown, a peasant costume and, spoiler alert, a wedding gown.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Serena Mason, who plays Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid,' shows her mother, Maggie Mason, an example of a shell bra top and mermaid tail costume. Sophomore Serena Mason plays Ariel and her mother, Maggie, is taking on the challenge of dressing her daughter.

"I started sewing in high school and made all my own clothes. Once you know how, you don't forget," Maggie said.

She has found the perfect mermaid's tail fabric, and bought other fabrics to embellish the forest green David's Bridal evening gown and the strapless wedding dress. The peasant blouse and lace-up vest she found online, along with some shell trim.

Her daughter was in productions staged by the Oregon City Children's Theater, so Maggie has made costumes and props before, most recently for that group's production of "The Lion King."

She said she wanted to help costume her daughter because "it is fun and I want to make her feel comfortable."

Student helpers

Seniors Alex Mehigan and Maddy Szidon are in the show and also helping with costumes for "The Little Mermaid." Both said they enjoyed the challenge of finding more than 100 costumes that work for all the characters.

For Szidon, the most rewarding aspect is "making something from scratch, seeing it onstage and knowing I made that."

There are middle schoolers in the cast, and Szidon was part of the process of measuring them all for their costumes. She noted that they talk a lot, but do cooperate once she gets them into the dressing rooms.

She currently is working on five fish costumes and said the most fun was making the seaweed costumes.

Mehigan plays Prince Eric, Ariel's love interest in "The Little Mermaid," but chooses to also help with costumes because it's rewarding.

"I enjoy seeing how happy people look when the costume brings their character to life," he said.

A full story about Rex Putnam High School's production of "The Little Mermaid" will appear in the Feb. 19 issue of this paper.

Mermaids, gulls and more

What: The Rex Putnam High School Performing Arts Department presents "The Little Mermaid"

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 and 29

Where: RPHS Auditorium, 4950 S.E. Roethe Road, Oak Grove

Tickets: Adults $10; seniors, students $8

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