Local mother designs duds for Lake Middle School production of 'Willy Wonka Jr.'Mary Jensen has been keeping busy, behind the scenes, as Lake Middle School prepares to put on "Willy Wonka Jr." April 15-17
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Every year, the students at Lake Middle School have asked theater director Robin Bartell if they can do “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for the spring musical. And every year Bartell has said ‘no.’
“To be honest, we have a very small stage, and the set (for the Willy Wonka production) is so big,” Bartell said. “There’s so many pieces, so I never thought it was possible.”
But this year Bartell relented.
And although preparing for the April 15-17 production hasn’t been easy for the director, cast and crew, the costumes are one area they have covered thanks to a local mother’s artistic prowess and skills with the sewing needle.
Mary Jensen began volunteering as the costume designer for Lake Middle School’s theater productions four years ago when her son participated in a school play. Her daughter is the stage manager for the upcoming production “Willy Wonka Jr.”
For Jensen, costume design provides an avenue to contribute behind the scenes to her children’s activities.
“I love the anonymity of costuming — I don’t have to be on stage,” she said.
Jensen has been working “almost non-stop” for the last month helping bring to life the well-known “Willy Wonka Jr.” characters like Charlie Bucket, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teevee, Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop and, of course, the Oompa Loompas.
Jensen said she and Bartell have worked hard to determine how the characters will come to life on stage and have been resourceful in doing so.
“Ms. Bartell has some ideas and I have the knowledge of how to put that together or make it cheaper or easier,” she said. “A lot of costuming is just kind of winging it.”
One interesting challenge for Jensen involved coming up with a costume for Violet that would allow the character to blow up into a rotund blueberry.
The borrowed solution came via the Phipps Center for the Arts’ production of Willy Wonka — an inflatable pumpkin suit.
The pumpkin suit will be worn underneath Violet’s dress, and when the time comes the chord is pulled.
Whereas some of the costumes involve combining pieces, others have Jensen sewing and designing them herself. For example, Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas were designed and sewn by Jensen.
“Having to make 15 of the same costume gets a little tiring after a while,” she admitted.
Since Jensen has undertaken the volunteer position, she tries whenever possible to design costumes that can be adjustable — in size and style — so they can be reused for other shows.
Jensen said she is excited to see her work hit the stage on opening night.
“So far, keep your fingers crossed, no costume malfunctions,” she said.
Bartell said the cast and crew are excited to put on a much anticipated production.
“The story is so simple, but so magical because it’s what every kid wants,” she said. “It’s like winning the lottery for a child — getting a chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.”
Lake Middle School’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” will be staged April 15-17 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door; $4 for adults, $2 for students and children under 5 are free.