If you’ve ever attended one of the joyful performances at Kaufman Music Center’s annual Summer Musical Theater Workshop or taken in a Poppy Seed Players show or Special Music School spring concert, you’ve probably admired costumes by Terri Bush. She first came to Kaufman 22 years ago after hearing about the summer workshop and contacting its director, Sean Hartley. Since then, she and her team have been creating about 200 costumes – designed and produced during a period of three weeks! – for the workshop’s seven musicals each year, plus costumes for many other productions in Merkin Concert Hall.
Terri has designed costumes for musicals inspired by themes ranging from Indian myths and Shakespeare to food, classic children’s books and "The Hunger Games." “I can think of many highlights from Terri's own personal designs,” says Sean. “She made four wonderful, over-sized puppets for 'The Frog Prince' and a wonderful, enormous dragon for 'Kenny and the Dragon.' She wonderfully recreated the Revolutionary War era for 'Sybil's Ride.' And every year, she also sets up the costume shop, helps all of the other designers, presides over their costume parades, and then puts the costumes away at the end of the summer. She has been a tireless advocate for each child’s right to a costume that fits, suits the character and that makes the actor feel special.” One of Terri’s own favorite costumes is a seven-headed monster with three actors inside. “That was a quite a challenge,” she recalls, “and a lot of fun too.”
Costumers love period pieces, Terri explains. She and her staff begin doing research for the Summer Musical Theater Workshop costumes in the spring, working closely with each show’s director and visiting their favorite fabric stores and thrift shops. Getting costumes just right can be a challenge, but if you need, say, a 1970s Italian navy uniform (child-sized, of course) at the last minute, Terri is your go-to person. In addition to her work at Kaufman Music Center, Terri also costumes productions at the Little Church Around the Corner in downtown Manhattan.
Terri loves watching the kids perform. “That’s what it’s all about,” she says. “Getting to see it all up there on the stage and seeing how happy the kids are. And then there’s the part at the end when they bring me their dirty socks.” Terri plans to retire after this year and will be greatly missed by her colleagues and the children at Kaufman Music Center. As yet she has no concrete plans for the next stage, but she’ll definitely be spending more time with her one-year-old granddaughter. For now, she’s just wrapped up costumes for this year’s Broadway Playhouse performances, designed by Nadia Fadeeva, and will soon get to work on costumes for Special Music School's third grade play. And she’s been training her successor. “At this point I’m the only one who knows where all the bodies are buried in the storage room,” she notes.
“This will be our first summer without her, and it's going to be very sad,” says Sean. “But it also speaks to her legacy that she leaves behind her such a disciplined, creative crew and such a complete, diverse and well-tended collection of costumes and materials. We have decided to name the costume collection the Terri Bush Costume Collection in her honor."
Above: Terri with Grahame the Dragon, aka Nathan Robertson