Story of a… Wardrobe Supervisor

Working behind the scenes at the Dr. Phillips Center, Kerrie Bishop is skilled at making everyone on stage look just right.

Pint-sized phenom. Bishop has been sewing and stitching for as long as she can remember. “I got introduced to it by my grandmother. She was very crafty, and we would do projects together.” By the time she was 10 years old, Bishop was designing dresses.

Expanding her horizons. She studied costume design and construction at the University of Florida. “I didn’t fancy myself as an artist; I was more interested in the mechanics of how things were built.” For ideas, she watched MTV videos. “Musicians like the B-52s and David Byrne were big inspirations as far as being fearless in their costume choices.”

Rock on, baby. “In college, a friend and I decided we wanted to create costumes for rock bands. We ended up going to New York City for a music convention,” which resulted in Bishop making eight plaid tuxedos for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ New Year’s Eve gig with Aerosmith at Boston Garden.

On with the show. One of her first professional jobs was as a dresser for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular featuring live reindeer. Bishop stood offstage, ready with a basket to help one of the actors with a quick costume change. “Before Rudolph goes on, it’s pitch black, and he moves in front of me. Suddenly I hear a water faucet running, and I’m thinking, ‘Who would turn on the water during the show?’ Then I look down and realize that Rudolph is relieving himself into my basket—and onto me. When something bad like that happens, you’ve just got to keep going.”

Every day is new. Bishop is in charge of wardrobe for every performance that comes through the Dr. Phillips Center and the Bob Carr Theater. Her daily duties vary, from doing laundry to stitching to prepping shoes and hats to acting as a dresser. Each performer has different wardrobe needs. “Sarah Brightman had an extensive wardrobe collection—pretty much everything was hand-beaded—and an entire band, plus a 32-piece choir.” There were times when Bishop was busy prepping Brightman’s wardrobe items all day long.

Quick-change artist. The timing of a costume change can be extremely tricky. During Ghost the Musical, she did a lightning-fast change offstage with two female actors in eight seconds—a record for Bishop.

Hiding in plain sight. Many times during shows “I’ve had to go onstage behind or inside a prop piece to assist someone getting dressed. We have to wear all black [that’s the uniform]. I cover myself as much as possible, with long sleeves, a hood, gloves. During Flashdance, I had to crawl onstage to catch costume pieces that were being flung through a set piece.”

The adult in charge. “Dealing with different personalities is the most challenging part of the job. You need a thick skin. I laugh a lot. You have to take care of everybody like they are your children, but not in an overly mothering way.”

Broadway bound. “The irony is I’ve been doing this professionally since 1994—working in costuming—and I’ve never seen a Broadway show. I’ve always seen things in snippets from the sides. I’d like to change that. It’s on my bucket list for this year.”

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