Counting down to Friday's opening night of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Rose Theater costume designer Sherri Geerdes and her staff had dozens of costumes yet to complete with just 10 days to go.
But for the calm and collected Geerdes, it's been-there, done-that.
“Joseph,” an Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical based on a biblical story, opens Friday. It requires neither the largest number of costumes nor the toughest design challenges Geerdes has faced in her 30 years as the Rose's costume designer.
“A big show like this is always a roller-coaster of 'We're in good shape,' then 'No, we're not,'” Geerdes said with a knowing smile. “I never count how many costumes are in a show. Some (totals) are quite small, and others are well over 100, like 'The King and I.' We keep a good, calm vibe in the costume shop.”
Geerdes, 53, grew up in George, Iowa, on a farm an hour north of Sioux City. Her mother taught her to sew when she was 4 or 5. She always loved drawing, too.
But it wasn't until she was studying at Minneapolis College of Art and Design that she got the idea to combine her love of design and sewing by becoming a theatrical costumer. She did an internship at the Minneapolis Children's Theatre Company, which is located on the college's campus.
In May 1982, just after she earned her bachelor's degree, Emmy Gifford decided she didn't want to design her own costumes anymore. Gifford, founder of the Omaha children's theater that became the Rose, hired Geerdes as its first full-time costume designer.
“That first year was pretty hairy,” Geerdes said. “There were many instances I was at a loss, but I just powered through.”
Organizational skills were an early challenge, along with thin staffing. And Geerdes says she got faster with experience.
She nearly burned out when the Emmy Gifford Children's Theatre moved to the Rose and got a new name in 1995. But she also got a bonus that year when she met Nils Haaland, a co-founder of the Blue Barn Theatre who was cast in the Rose's tour of “Alice in Wonderland.” The two married in 2002.
Did Geerdes ever imagine she'd last 30 years sewing costumes at the Rose?
“Never,” she said. “I was just going with the flow. But I've really loved it. No regrets.”
She is particularly known for her colorful and inventive animal costumes, since animals are often characters in children's plays. Geerdes said she's done so many, she feels like she's got a handle on that part of the job.
Contact the writer: