‘The Addams Family’ to feature costuming by local Nanette Cheffers

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Photo courtesy Curtains Up Pagosa
Curtains Up Pagosa’s upcoming productions of “The Addams Family” will feature costumes created by Nanette Cheffers.

Curtains Up Pagosa

She loves what she does, loves that her home is here in Pagosa since 2013, loves her kids and their spouses and her granddaughters — and she absolutely exudes loving making costumes for theater. 

Right now, she’s house-deep in creating dozens of costumes for “The Addams Family,” a new musical comedy that Curtains Up Pagosa (CUP) will present for five performances Oct. 27-30 at Pagosa Springs High School.

Nanette Cheffers came to Pagosa in 2013 to spend a month with her daughter who had been hired right out of college as a theater major to act with Thingamajig Theatre Company, Pagosa’s professional theater company. 

After delivering a Victorian blouse to her daughter that she created overnight and seeing how talented she was and using her talents part time, Tim and Laura Moore of Thingamajig hired her as their costume designer.

There, she met Dale Scrivener, now the CUP artistic director, and when he needed costumes for CUP and high school musicals, he had the perfect person to turn to. She also met two of CUP’s board members, Ricardo and Nora Martinez, when she worked on a costume for their daughter, Sophie, and was invited to work on costumes for CUP productions. 

How did Cheffers get so proficient in her craft? She started making costumes for friends and family at age 13. When her daughter was in 11th grade, her high school theater program in La Serna, Calif., run by David Carter, director of performing arts, a truly professional-quality program, needed six white wedding dresses overnight for their production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Cheffers enlisted the help of her own mother and delivered all six gowns the next day. She and Carter became great friends and she made costumes for their productions for the next eight years. She still makes guest appearances when a production coincides with a trip to California.

Cheffers has developed a very detailed process for costuming the actors in any production she’s involved with. First, before anything else, she reads the entire script. Then, with different colored highlighters for each cast member, she reads through and marks their part of the script, noting where they are in each act and scene, what they are doing, what costume props they will need (i.e., a handkerchief, etc.). This all goes into a binder for reference.

Then, she talks to each actor about their role, gives them her take on what their costumes should be, asks them if they know anything about their character and, if not, tells them to do some research. If the actor is a professional and likely not living in Pagosa, she does this by phone. If it’s a community theater actor, she talks to them personally while measuring them for their costume. 

“It’s very personal and I am always mindful that I am in their personal space,” she said.

Designing and making costumes is definitely not like sewing for yourself. They must be sewn for durability and be able to be taken apart easily and resized for different actors. If well made, after a show is over, they may be purchased by a costume rental company and used for other productions of the same play or musical.

A costume designer’s mantra — “30 feet and moving!” — means that given the size of most stages and the actor is almost always moving, the closest theater-goer is 30 feet from the stage and certain licenses can be taken in costume construction. Hems might not get done and finishing details that no one will ever see or even notice might not need to be included in the design.

The one person that Cheffers says she cannot do her best work without is retired Pagosa Springs teacher Melissa McDonald. 

“I can text her at 3 a.m. with what I need done, she will text me back at 5 a.m. when she wakes up, and whatever I need done, she does it in one day. We’ve been working together since Thingamajig’s 2015 production of ‘White Christmas.’ She’s my right hand, my go-to volunteer,” Cheffers said.

Cheffers’s daughter, Melissa Stewart, is now involved with the Heather McGaughey Four Corners Theatre Academy and lives with her husband in Farmington, N.M. Cheffers’s husband, Carl Cheffers, is an NFL referee. She has a son and daughter in law in California, and two granddaughters ages 2 1/2 and 3 months. She adores all of them.

“I love this job. I love living in Pagosa. I love the connections it gives me to people. I love making costumes that the actors will love wearing. I get to be creative all day long,” she said.

The CUP production of “The Addams Family” musical opens on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., with four other chances to see the show: Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. The closing performance is on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. You do not want to miss this show; tickets are selling fast, so get them now before time runs out. 

Tickets are available online at www.CurtainsUpPagosa.org, https://our.show/cupaddams and at several local businesses: The Choke Cherry Tree, PS Chocolates, the Chamber of Commerce and at the door. Tickets are $10 students (18 years old and younger), $20 adults in advance; tickets will be $5 more at the door. Children 5 and under are admitted free.