Costume designer the right fit for ‘Madwoman of Chaillot’ |

Costume designer the right fit for ‘Madwoman of Chaillot’

Garments can be like a sorcerer’s potions. With the right costume, your whole world can change, or more precisely, the perception of those looking at you can be greatly altered. And that’s a powerful thing.

But just as Merlin’s formulas required extreme precision, the fit of the garb must be “just right.” This outbreak of magic is not part of a myth lost in the ages, but is happening right here, right now in our sleepy little community.

And the magician? Diane Fetterly. Fetterly is the costume designer for the classic comedy “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” playing at The Center for the Arts starting Feb. 10.

“One of the very demanding aspects of this costume design is the sheer quantity,” she says, sewing as she talks in her Nevada City home. “There are over 20 characters in this play, and most of them have two costumes.” Costumes hang everywhere in her home.

When “The Madwoman of Chaillot” played to great success in New York, Chicago and other major cities, it had huge budgets for costumes. But even having come as far as it has with its renovations and expanding arts programs, The Center for the Arts does not have a million dollars for costumes.

How can Fetterly pull it off? “With a lot of help,” she says. “People have jumped in to help sew, and Foothill Theatre has been so supportive. Paulette Gilbert, head of Foothill’s costume shop, has been very helpful, lending us gobs of authentic period costumes, some of which I remember collecting myself in the early days.” (In 1976 Fetterly was one of the founders of this Nevada City theater company.)

The spectacle will be magical, with stock market high jinks, big oil company intrigue and flamboyant feather boas all swirling in a dazzling dance of language, mystery and romance. Jean Giraudoux’s script juggles the comedy of life gone mad and the madness of a hero’s courage, as this hilarious story twists and turns to a surprising and delightful conclusion. What is insanity in a mad world, after all?

“You can be crazy, and you can be crazy like a fox,” says Fetterly. “The important thing is, are you looking good?”

“The Madwoman of Chaillot” plays at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($18), and Sundays at 2 p.m. ($12), from Feb. 10 through Feb. 26. In honor of this prestigious Parisian production, The Center for the Arts is planning to establish Le Café des Refusée in the Art Gallery starting an hour before every performance until an hour after every performance, where patrons can have a glass of wine, enjoy art and then enjoy the show. Tickets can be purchased in Nevada City at Yabobo and Love Shack Records, in Grass Valley at BriarPatch and The Book Seller, and in Auburn at Cherry Records. Call 274-8384 for group ticket information; online at

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