For nearly four decades, Karen G. Wolfe has been the heartbeat of productions at Diamond Head Theatre, where she has been costume director responsible for creating garb for all the actors on stage.
With DHT now staging its final musical, “Anything Goes” – and yes, jammed with fashionable gowns, uniforms and more created by Wolfe that could fill several boutiques — in the orininal facility, Wolfe was looking forward to continue her job when “Cinderella” is staged in DHT’s brand new facility a stone’s throw away next January.
But unexpectedly, Wolfe has been told by the theater that “Anything Goes” will be her final show. She won’t be able to try on Cinderella’s slipper to continue her creative services when the new theater opens shop next year. Surely, this must have been a devastating moment in her brilliant career.
With more than 200 shows under her belt, the snub was hurtful and alarming. Wolfe served under both the Honolulu Community Theatre of the past and the current Diamond Head Theatre era.
“Not only is this an insult to my mother, it’s an insult to the Hawaii theater community, and a threat to worker’s rights,” said her daughter, Kyla Blasé, who has launched an online petition to help her mother continue as costume designer “so she can choose to retire with celebration at her discretion.”
Veteran actress-singer Shari Lynn, who has graced the DHT and looked glorious in Wolfe’s period-savvy gowns, said “The gifted Karen Wolfe has given life to thousands of characters via her unparalleled artistic vision and dedication to her craft. Sometimes actors don’t fully inhabit the character until the costumer works her magic and they see it fully realized for the first time.
“Fanny, Mame, Dolly and many others were given their signature look by Karen. She is also always sensitive to the body insecurities we all have,” said Shari. “HCT/DHT has been the beneficiary, as she earned great press and countless Po’okelas for them. Granted, I’m not privy to the reasons behind DHT’s decision, but this is not how an organization shows gratitude.”
Aubrey Lee, who has worked in theater here and on the Mainland, said of Wolfe: “Her extensive knowledge, craftsmanship and experience alone is irreplaceable. I know that such talent is not easy to find. The ability to sew and design alone is a dying art. Being able to form an extensively long list of volunteers is also no easy feat. Losing Karen would be a step backward in Diamond Head Theatre’s current path of moving forward into the future.” Lee added: “Seeing the specifications for a role to currently replace her is honestly laughable. No one will be able to match the time and dedication that Karen has made over the years, no one with the experience needed will take the current rate being offered.”
Lee hopes the DHT board of directors will step in and right a wrong.
Actors, dancers and techies alike will recognize the costume shop as the heart and soul of DHT, particularly where it has been operating just inside the stage door at the back of the aging facility.
The costume shop was the hub for all; if Wolfe was available, you could kibitz, partake of pupu or a beverage, or get a costume fitting. She might have been stitching a hem, or sewing a rip in a garment, but but always open to chit-chats or interviews. At Halloween, the costume shop would be packed with eager beavers from the community trying to rent anything from a ghoulish outfit to a gown featured in an earlier musical.
Blasé, herself a theatrical veteran, is currently merchandise manager of “Six” on Broadway and earlier served in the same capacity for “Moulin Rouge” and “School of Rock.”
We didn’t seek comment from DHT, regarding Wolfe’s dismissal, because personnel matters are never discussed.
Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that there could be further changes in the DHT hierarchy. Whatever. But a devoted and experienced costumer is hard to find. …
Shari catches COVID
The aforementioned Shari Lynn has caught COVID-19 and thus had to cancel – for the second time – her gig at Medici’s at Manoa Marketplace, which was scheduled for this Friday, Sept. 30.
The entertainer, who has had her preventive shots, earlier tested for COVID, then cleared when checkups proved negative, but apparently the pandemic bug returned and still is claiming victims.
Shari also had to postpone her plans to get the latest booster shots.
Medici’s later will reschedule the gig, when all signs point to go. Meanwhile, if you have reservations, hold off on cancellation; they’ll be good when the date is firmed up ….
And that’s Show Biz. …