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Vancouver theatrical costume collection finds a new steward

Colleen Wheeler in a scene from the Bard on the Beach production of Elizabeth Rex. Bard on the Beach has acquired the Vancouver Playhouse collection of theatrical costumes.

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An important collection of theatrical costumes assembled by the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company over its almost-50-year life will remain intact. An agreement has been reached that will see the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society acquire and maintain the Playhouse collection.

The storied costume collection includes thousands of items of clothing and accessories, footwear, jewellery and millinery.

After the Playhouse folded last year, there was great concern in the theatre and film community about the collection's fate, as the items were used by many production companies, far beyond the Playhouse itself.

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Vancouver theatre patrons Paul and Darlene Howard became the legal custodians of the collection, which was kept intact and cared for by outgoing Playhouse Artistic Managing Director Max Reimer and a group of former Playhouse staff and associates.

"Paul and I assumed responsibility for the collection to preserve it both as a Playhouse legacy and a dynamic resource to the arts community," Darlene Howard said in a statement released Wednesday. "We wanted it to be made available for a realistic fee to those arts groups and artists who understand its overall value to all, and will treat each piece with respect."

The Howards invited Bard on the Beach to take over the collection with a mandate to maintain, manage and make it available to performing-arts groups and educational organizations.

"It's a beautiful collection, and combined with Bard's stock, it becomes the most comprehensive theatrical costume collection in Western Canada," says Sydney Cavanagh, Head of Wardrobe for Bard, in a statement. "The range is amazing."

The Playhouse collection is currently stored on the downtown campus of Vancouver Community College. Bard's collection – amassed over 24 years – is housed in an East Vancouver warehouse. The new agreement will see both collections sourced through one office. Arts groups now interested in renting items from the collection can do so from Bard.

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More

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