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Inside the Design Studio | Colleen Grady

If you've been around here for any length of time, you know how much I love live theatre and especially Theatre Under the Stars. There have been so many hard things about the pandemic, but losing theatre hit my soul. There are so many talented artists that haven't been able to work because theatre's are dark.

One of those VERY talented people is Colleen Grady who heads TUTS's costume shop and designs so many of TUTS's shows! I've loved getting to know her and seeing her work over the years and thought you might like to know her as well! She's Canadian, so you know she's just lovely! 

Welcome Inside the Design Studio, Colleen! Tell us about yourself!

I have been designing costumes pretty much my whole life!  It started by playing dress up out of my mother’s closet when I was just a little girl.  I loved figuring out how to put together different outfits and come up with the character that wore them!

Fast forward just a “few” years, and I’ve been lucky enough to do what I love for more than 25 years; designing costumes for musicals and plays.

Originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, I received my BFA in Costume Design from the University of Regina.  During the summers while I was in college, I worked at Maine State Music Theatre.  I worked first as a wardrobe intern, then a wardrobe supervisor, and finally a costume designer.  My time at Maine State would introduce me to people that would change the course of my life.  It was the people I worked with at Maine State that would introduce me to the Artistic Director of the Walnut Street Theatre.  Who knew then that those introductions would turn into a 19 year tenure as the costume shop manager and resident designer.  I am truly grateful for the years I spent there.

Colleen Grady David Peck Houston Texas Designer

When my father-in-law became ill a few years ago, my husband and I decided it was time to move closer to his hometown of Amarillo, Texas.  So now we live in Houston, which is still 10 hours from Amarillo but still much closer than Philadelphia!  We, along with all our “fur kids” (Tater, Tot, Maddie, Gracie and Sneakers) love Houston and have made it our home.  I am also grateful to have made Theatre Under the Stars my new artistic home.  I hope you enjoy browsing my portfolio!  I look forward to new artistic adventures both near and far!

Colleen Grady David Peck Houston Texas Designer

 Colleen Grady David Peck Houston Texas Designer

How has the current state of covid-19 affected the arts? What are some ways we can support?

Wow.  It’s had a huge effect on the arts.  Many arts organizations have closed their doors and laid off or furloughed the majority of their staffs.  An enormous amount of artists across the country (and around the world) have, like many people, lost their livelihoods pretty much over night.  Arts organizations are trying to figure out how to pivot (thank goodness we are good at that) to stay relevant until we can get back to putting our art forms out in the world for audiences again.  Unfortunately, the performing arts like theatre, opera, ballet, will likely be some of the last groups to get back to it since our audiences have to gather in large groups to see a show.  We have had many discussions about how we produce shows with social distancing on stage, backstage and in the audience.  How do we do that and also be fiscally responsible so that we come out of this pandemic intact.  It’s all very scary and I am so grateful to our arts leaders and can’t imagine the weight they bear on their shoulders right now.  What I do know is that we WILL be back.  We will be back to heal, to make people laugh, make people think, cry and escape their troubles again.

Colleen Grady David Peck Houston Texas Designer 

 People can support their local arts organizations right now by making donations to help ensure the longevity of these organizations.  Every dollar helps.  Non-profit theatre companies operate on fairly thin budget margins, and this pandemic has been devastating to many.  Perhaps people might think about donating their tickets to the shows that have been cancelled instead of asking for a refund.  People can also support by advocating for monetary support for out of work artists and shuttered arts organizations beyond what has already been done.  There is a fear among artists out there that they will be forgotten.  We already know, for example, that broadway will not be back until at least January 2021.  Some arts organizations in Houston know they won’t be back until then or later as well.  Artists are going to need help to survive.  If you are shopping for something, be it clothing or something for your home, look to local artists for your purchase.  Help support our artists in our communities by purchasing from their brick and mortar stores or their online or etsy stores.  It helps, not only in monetary terms, but also keeps our artists creating, which is what they love to do.

 Colleen Grady David Peck Houston Texas Designer

Are you making the costumes for the little mermaid? If so, what is that process?

That is a little undecided at the moment because of budget cuts we have had to make due to Covid-19.  Our hope is that we will continue with our plan to rent some of costumes and build a number of them as well.  We will likely be building costumes for Ariel, Ursula, the Mersisters, Sebastian and Flounder.   Because of Covid 19 we want to be sure that costumes are easy for the actors to be able put on themselves, so there is as little contact between actors and backstage personnel as possible.  By building a good portion of them ourselves, we can make sure that they are designed and made in such a way to accomplish that minimized contact.

Colleen Grady David Peck Houston Texas Designer

What is your most used emoji?

I don’t use a ton of emojis, but I often use the “Memoji” of my avatar blowing a kiss


What was the worst haircut you ever had?

Oh my goodness!  I actually went to hairdressing school in the late 1980s and did so much stuff to my hair, I had to get it cut off to about 1” long all over!  We called it a “chemical haircut” LOL!



Who was your childhood actor/actress crush?

Well, I’m going to date myself here, but I think I’d say Scott Baio from “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi”

Scott Baio Happy Days Celebrity Crush 

What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you used to rock?

Well, I went to high school in the 1980s so the choices are endless!  Probably the little lace ankle socks with pumps was the worst it got!  I don’t know what we were thinking!

 Lace Ankle Socks David Peck interviews Colleen Grady

You have your own late-night talk show, whom do you invite as your first guest?

Wow that’s a tough one! I think I’d choose Michelle Obama as my first guest. I think she’s a brilliant, eloquent woman and I loved reading her book.



If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?

It would be a romantic comedy for sure! People tell me all the time that I look like Melissa McCarthy, but I’m not nearly as funny as her, so personally I’d cast Connie Britton because she has amazing hair!




You have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick?

Dancing Queen




What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The race for quality has no finish line.


When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?

I would like to be remembered for being kind, collaborative, and “never meeting a stranger” as the saying goes.



What would the title of your autobiography be?

“Oh, for F*#ks Sake. What Happened?”

What was the worst job you ever had?

As a waitress in a bar in Canada when I was in college. I hated that job.  I wasn’t very good at it either.



Which band/artist-dead or alive would play at your funeral?

An actor and friend named Hugh Panaro.  He has the most beautiful voice. I did a production of Les Misérables with him in Philadelphia and his performance moved me to tears nightly.  He played Phantom on Broadway for a number of years and is one of the kindest people I’ve met in show business.

 Colleen Grady top picks Hugh Panaro and His dog

What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve travelled that feels like home and is not where you currently live?

I’d probably say Scotland although I haven’t been there in a long time. Growing up I was a Scottish Highland dancer and played the snare drum in a pipe band. I love all things Scottish… well except maybe Haggis.



What’s one thing we don’t know about you?

My cat came from the cat of Richard Nixon's daughter Julie, and Dwight Eisenhower’s grandson David. My husband and I used to live in Philadelphia, and Julie and David's daughter is an actress friend of ours. When Julie and David's cat had kittens, we got one of them.  Their granddaughter had already named him Sneakers, so we just kept his name.  His first poop was on a rug that had been in the White House during the Nixon administration.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why?

I think it would be fun to hang out with Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden. He’s magical and charms animals.  It would be fun to hang out in a Secret Garden and play with animals and smell flowers all day.

Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden Collen Grady's top picks  

If you could choose any person from history to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?

Weirdly this has been the most difficult question to answer. I just don’t know.  I’d pick a few different people for a a number of reasons.  The people who have crossed my mind are Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeths sister) cause she loved a party when she was younger, Princess Diana because she was kind and lovely, Ruth Bader Ginsberg because she’s got gumption, and Walt Disney because he could create all the amazing Disney characters to hang out with.  So, can I pick those 4?  LOL!



What is your favorite curse word?

Definitely the “F” word.



What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

If I didn’t work as a costume designer, I would love to be a veterinarian (not sure I could handle the heartbreak though).


What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being together with my family. My parents have both passed away, but I have 2 brothers and a sister, 2 sister in-laws, and 1 brother in-law.  I also have 3 nieces and 2 nephews who all have wonderful significant others.  We have a wonderful time when we are all together.  I feel complete when I’m with them.


What is your greatest fear?

To come to the end of my life with anything left unsaid or with any regrets.

David Peck Houston Designer Signature

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