A Q&A with Teatro ZinZanni’s queen of costumes

In the Pacific Northwest, some of the people who create the boldest stage magic are not the ones we actually see on stage. The Bellevue Reporter sat down with one of them. Meet Teatro ZinZanni’s “Contessa DeLuxe,” Louise DiLenge.

  • Friday, January 9, 2015 4:00pm
  • Life

Louise DiLenge

By Gabrielle Nomura Gainor

Special to the Reporter

In the Pacific Northwest, some of the people who create the boldest stage magic are not the ones we actually see on stage. The Bellevue Reporter sat down with one of them. Meet Teatro ZinZanni’s “Contessa DeLuxe,” Louise DiLenge.

DiLenge oversees the dinner theater’s stunning costumes — a unique challenge, considering that the audience sits mere inches away from the singers, aerialists, dancers, drag queens and actors who star in the show. DiLenge talked about her love affair with rhinestones, her more than 40 years in the theater world (including as a performer), and everything she’s learned from drag queens. Here’s only a snippet of that conversation.

Reporter: Finish this sentence: All Teatro ZinZanni costumes have …?

DiLenge: Big personalities; the devil is in the details. Also, they all typically have at least half a dozen hours of work behind them. If it were a normal theater setting, we’d still make our costumes big and bold, but they wouldn’t necessarily require that extra layer. (I have an affinity for lace, fine fabrics, rhinestones and jewels).

Reporter: From ballerinas to drag queens, what are the considerations that go into working with different body types and abilities?

DiLenge: I always say that costume design is part psychology, part skill. When I meet a person, it doesn’t matter what shape they are. What matters is getting to know them on the inside.

Reporter: Let’s talk about drag queens — specifically, ZinZanni’s incredibly gender-bending Kevin Kent.

DiLenge: For our current show, Kevin decided it was time to size up, so we had to build him some new bosoms. I like to joke that Kevin’s body was engineered by Boeing; there’s definitely a secret construction that goes on.

Reporter: Walk me through the process of what you do to prepare for a performance.

DiLenge: It depends on who’s in the cast; what the storyline is. I work from what I call clues: “What’s this person’s character? Are they going to somehow transform onstage? Is this character smart or funny?

Reporter: What’s the most personal thing in your office?

DiLenge: Definitely my two French bulldogs (who are currently snoring under my desk).

Reporter: What’s a typical day for you at work?

DiLenge: There is no typical day for me. Today, I cleaned my desk, then started planning for the next show. During a build, I typically do a lot of crafting; sometimes I’ll take an old head piece and reinvent it. Sometimes I stay home and sketch. Sometimes I go shopping; which sounds like it might be easy, but shopping for fabrics can be really exhausting.

Reporter: Sounds like a nice variety.

DiLenge: I couldn’t this job for so long, or again and again if it wasn’t fun; the variety is definitely what keeps it fresh.

For more information about Teatro ZinZanni, and its current show, “Beaumont and Caswell in Hacienda Holiday,” go to zinzanni.com/seattle.

Gabrielle Nomura Gainor is a freelance writer. She lives in Seattle.

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