Behind the Scenes Spotlight: Andi Soehren, Wardrobe Supervisor

Andi Soehren, Children’s Theatre Company’s (CTC) Wardrobe Supervisor, works in a flurry of action before shows to prepare costumes, dress actors as their characters, and adjust hair and makeup. During shows, she and the rest of the wardrobe department are responsible for getting actors costumed and onstage on time, and she reveals, “Sometimes we’re kneeling just out of sightlines in order to get people back onstage in mere seconds.” We talked to Andi to learn more about the job of a Wardrobe Supervisor and her experiences at CTC.

CTC: What excites you about your career?
Andi Soehren: I love the quick changes. There are not many jobs that allow you to have victories in quite the same way as we do. My favorite change is in The Wizard of Oz, turning the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man back into farm hands in a minute and 15 seconds. The first time that was successful, I felt like I could jump over a building—it was that wonderful.

CTC: That sounds intense! On the converse, what do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?
AS: Helping maintain the emotional well-being of the student actors is challenging.  Our job puts us in very close proximity to our students. They trust us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do the job we do. This means occasionally, when the pressures of being a full-time student as well as putting on 10 shows a week gets to them, we deal with the emotional fallout. We walk a fine line between patting them on the heads and saying that everything will be all right and nudging them onstage saying, “The show must go on!”

CTC: Is there anything about your role in the theatre that you think people would find surprising or unexpected?

AS: I think the quick change as choreography would be surprising. Also the volume of laundry we wash every show is astounding!

CTC: How did you get involved with theatre in the first place and then become a Wardrobe Supervisor?
AS: I went to college for a general theatre degree, and I have been sewing since I was three. Naturally, in college this made the costume shop an ideal place for work study. My freshman year, the costume shop manager said, "Andi, you're organized. We need you to run wardrobe on The Museum." The show had 23 actors and 74 roles, and I had never done wardrobe before. It was a trial by fire and I loved it. From then on, if I wasn't acting in a show, I was running wardrobe. After college, I worked at an opera in upstate New York, and from there I made connections at CTC and got a job as the Wardrobe Assistant. Four years later, when CTC’s Wardrobe Supervisor left, I applied for and got the job of supervisor. 

CTC: I imagine you’ve had a lot of powerful experiences during your time at CTC. What is your favorite show that you’ve worked on?

AS: My favorite show is Iron Ring from a few years ago. Two weeks into the run, I discovered a moment in the second act where I could sit down. The rest of the show was just run, run, run. The quick changes were like dances. I loved it. The story was my kind of story as well, and the language was beautiful. 

CTC: Besides the constant quick pace, what inspires you about theatre and your specific role on the theatre team?

AS: I've always loved stories. You can tell such beautiful and emotional stories in the theatre. I love wardrobe because while we are members of the crew, we work so closely with the actors. We bridge both groups. 

CTC: Why do you think it’s important to expose children to those stories, and how does the age of your audience influence your work?
AS: I saw many plays as a child—my grandparents made certain of that. I got to experience the lives and emotions of people whose experiences were vastly different from my own. The empathy those plays engendered in me has served me very well as I have moved out of my small town and into the world. I'd rather tell the stories that we tell at CTC than any others.