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Arts and Entertainment

Children's Theatre of Charlotte takes new role: Mask creators
Professional artisans craft protective gear
Published Thursday, April 2, 2020 2:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Children’s Theatre of Charlotte costume shop professionals made protective masks for health care professionals to protect themselves while treating coronavirus patients.

Kindness must go on, even if the show doesn't.

Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, like many organizations had to cancel the remainder of its 2019-2020 season, as well as their spring education programs. That has not stopped them from continuing to impact the community. Their costume shop is working remotely to create over 100 medical masks for local healthcare systems. It is in keeping with their Kindness Project, if you ask Director of Production Steven Levine.  

“Our costume shop people have the skill, and this was a great opportunity for us to sort of continue serving the community,” Levine said. “Arts organizations are really community organizations at their heart anyway, which is what we do as part of our normal work. The Kindness Project isn’t just about the art we put on stage, it’s also about trying to infuse kindness throughout the community. This was another manifestation of that.”

When the United States Institute for Theatre Technology put in a call for stitchers—the theater term for seamstresses—to create protective gear for healthcare workers, Levine saw it as a perfect fit.

“Simultaneously, our costume shop folks were having the same conversations independently,” Levine said. “They started doing a lot of research in terms of what the medical providers needed in terms of masks, what was the best way to put them together, what were the best fabrics to use. There were a lot of different patterns out there.”

CTC Design Assistant and Craft Specialist Magda Guichard has taken point on mask production alongside two other sewers. Cutting and sewing began on March 25, two days after material distribution by Levine.

The masks consist of outer layers of cotton, as well as an inner jersey layer. Guichard is using a Jennifer Maker facemask pattern. It includes a tie in the back, rather than an elastic back.

“I talked to a couple of people about the tie back versus the elastic back, and the tie back fits better,” Guichard said. “The tie back is more customizable. This was the best pattern for us to get things to them quickly. You can wear it over an existing N95 mask to prolong the life of the mask.”

From cut to finish the mask creation takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for a single mask.

“I probably had about 10 different people tell me, ‘hey, you should be making these masks,’” Guichard said. “There was a call out for everyone to make these because there was such a shortage. Now you’re hearing about fashion designers opening up their factories to help as well, which is awesome. Even that can take some time, so smaller home sewers can help on a larger scale. I’ve done a little bit of mask production before, so I’m pretty quick at doing my own almost assembly line style so I can crank out a lot of things at once. It was kind of a call from all over the place.”

Levine will distribute the masks to local healthcare teams once they are finished.

“He’ll come and pick everything up so we don’t have to go out and we can respect social distancing,” Guichard said.


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