Meet Amanda Mueller, Costume Shop Manager at ACT Theatre. You see her work when the lights go down at every performance on our stage. Amanda works closely with each show’s designer to realize their vision while staying on budget and managing the dressing process from soup to nuts. She also coordinates the look, costuming, make up and hair with the marketing department on photo shoots for campaigns which can be shot months in advance of opening night.
Recently, Amanda led a very important project – putting a team of theater artisans together to sew much needed medical-grade masks for healthcare workers.
In our first ACTFocus behind-the-scenes feature, we caught up with Amanda to find out more about her and to answer the age old question: chocolate, wine, or coffee?
Why did you choose ACT as your theater home?
When I decided to move to Seattle 15 years ago, I was starry-eyed and right out of school. I did a lot of research on local theaters and their missions. I appreciated ACT’s well-planned out seasons with something for everyone, whether it was programming that was socially-questioning, humorous or something that had period costumes that also spoke about current topics in society.
What do you enjoy most about your role at ACT?
My job is to managing the build process, starting with concept. I get to meet so many people through my work at ACT. The costume department has a unique position in production. Our purpose is to transform the actors into the characters you see on stage. Every show has a different cast, different designers, directors and sometimes additional crew or shop artists. It’s really a “getting to know you” process.
What are one or two of your favorite career high fives?
One of the dance pieces I designed when I was in college was selected for the American College Dance Association Nationals held at Kennedy Center. I was able to watch my work on a very prestigious stage. I joke that my career as a designer took off before I was ready and this was my 15 minutes of fame.
I detoured away from theater during the 2008 recession and started a small custom bridal business called Twice Blushed. I auditioned for season three of Project Runway — I did not make it. But I did win Seattle Magazine’s Seamless in Seattle fashion contest. It was nice way to gain some traction for my tiny business.
Tell us about your mask project. What was the genesis and what did you hope to accomplish?
We really are all in this together. We have to work together to survive together. Just like during WWII when manufacturers came together to produce the necessities, we had to make smart use of “all hands on deck.”
Theaters were the first businesses to close when the pandemic hit and large gatherings were banned. I felt a real sense of urgency I think before a lot of people did. There was no way the United States would be ready and have the needed supplies for medical workers and others who would need them. Seattle was going to need masks well before other cities.
I made contact with Providence Health System. Going in, I had no idea what I would be able to accomplish. I put together a team of skilled, furloughed theatrical costume workers. We could use our skills to build a much needed product to protect the hospital workers all of us rely on every day. My goal was to get much-needed medical-grade PPE (personal protective equipment) produced and to put costumers and sewers back to work. All of us working together made over 17,500 medical-grade masks for Providence.
What surprised you about the project?
There are so many costume shops with highly skilled sewers here in Seattle. This was news for Providence and we were able to enlist their help to underwrite the project. We were able to connect unlikely partners.
Another surprise was how grateful my sewers were to have something to do in those early weeks of this pandemic. Everyone was so grateful to have the opportunity to work together — keeping six feet apart, of course.
Chocolate or wine or coffee?
Why can’t I have all of them?
What was the last book you read or last TV show you binged?
I am not a binger of anything. I am finally making my way through Schitt’s Creek. The last book I really enjoyed was Sacre Blue by Christopher Moore.
Tell us something we don’t know.
When I was a kid I, was on the performance side of the stage as a dancer. I was also a competitive gymnast. I wish I could have made the connection of turning flips into a career as a stunt double. It’s probably better that I didn’t — too many injuries is what made me stop dancing in college.