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Kansas City Ballet Partners With Edgewater’s Halsey Onstage

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Photo: Kansas City Ballet

Fans of “The Nutcracker” know her as Mother Ginger, one of many characters in the Land of Sweets. And in the Kansas City Ballet’s version of the famous musical, she’s tall, sports a decorative beaded and sequined bodice, and wears a dress large enough to hide eight children.

That iteration of Mother Ginger is the result of a collaboration between two Edgewater businesses — Halsey Onstage, 1210 W. Thorndale Ave., and Edgewater Workbench, 1130 W. Thorndale Ave..

“The project began this summer when I started tambour beading a decorative beaded and sequined piece for Mother Ginger’s bodice and I made a matching headpiece as well,” said Rachel Coyle, who works for Halsey Onstage.

Mother Ginger was designed by Holly Hynes, who also redesigned an entirely new production for the Kansas City Ballet.

“Tambour beading is a rare skill today that originated in France,” Coyle said. “I was lucky enough to be taught last spring by a tambour beading master named Robert Haven.”

As the only independent costume shop in Chicago, Halsey Onstage creates costumes for a huge variety of disciplines, she said. Its specialty is ballet and, more specifically, tutus. Yet it also creates costumes for television and film, “so every day is different and exciting in our workplace.”

Coyle has been studying under costume designer and Halsey Onstage owner Travis Halsey since 2013.

“To say he is brilliant at what he does is an understatement,” Coyle said. “I have learned so much from him, and he is an incredible asset to the costuming world. He is the one who did all the math, patterning this giant puppet.”

She said Mother Ginger is a giant dress over a structure Halsey Onstage created to sit on top of a dancer’s shoulders.

“The dancer then has his hands free to move her arms with poles, and press buttons on one of the poles to move her facial features,” Coyle said. “The dress is large enough to comfortably fit about eight children underneath her skirt. Along with Travis and I, we had a few sewers help us get the giant dress and bodice sewn together.”

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Photo: Halsey Onstage

Coyle, who has a fine arts background, took the reigns for all the craftwork and beading of Mother Ginger. To create the puppet’s head, she first sculpted her face out of clay and made a plaster cast. She then vacuuformed a plastic shell, which meant essentially melting a sheet of plastic over the cast. She and her team made a few extra heads just in case, she said. She then airbrush-painted Mother Ginger’s head.

“What then makes this puppet so great is the work I did with Stuart (Marsh) at Edgewater Workbench,” Coyle said. “He is amazing. Travis and I go to him almost every week with ideas for different projects, whether large or small, and he makes them happen.”

She added that she and Halsey particularly enjoy Marsh’s 3-D printing technology. Marsh printed 3-D hands and facial features based off of Coyle’s sculpture. She then painted the hands and facial features. He also learned how to wire Mother Ginger so that the puppet could have remote-controlled facial features.

“Her eyebrows, eyes, and bottom lip all move independently or at the same time,” Coyle said.

“It was incredible to see Mother Ginger come together, as well as the disciplines of science and art,” she added. “Most people don’t even know there are businesses like ours nestled in Edgewater, or even Chicago. We at Halsey Onstage love the neighborhood and all the residents who peek in the windows to see what we are working on next.”


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