Costumer Takes a Star Turn in ‘Lagunatics’

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It’s that time again for No Square Theatre to stage “Lagunatics,” the popular spoof of the year’s issues that have wagged locals’ tongues: skateboarders bombing hills, illegal immigrant dragnets, kelp beds, the metamorphosis of the El Morro mobile home park into a campground, and nudity at the Pageant of the Masters, to name a few.

Nudity at the Pageant? Evidently last summer’s “Eat, Drink and be Merry” contained enough merriment, speak nudity, to keep libidinous audience members glued to binoculars, even though none are really all that necessary in the Irvine Bowl.

Then again, the nude statues in front of the Laguna College of Art and Design also get their due, sort of. “We’re just making fun of some of the public art around here. I guess the college is offering a different view of university women,” quipped Bree Burgess Rosen, who co-wrote the show with Chris Quilter.

(Coincidentally, Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters spokeswoman Sharbie Higuchi is participating in this year’s production.)

The show opens Saturday, Oct. 16 for three weekends, ending with a festive gala, where participants are encouraged to don costumes, on Oct. 30.

In the meantime, audiences can count on no sacred conversational cow remaining untipped, including Laguna’s shrinking gay population and certain popularly acclaimed Laguna Playhouse solo shows, empty storefronts and the suggestion that the entire city council is in bed together.

The tirelessly masticating goats of Laguna hillsides are still providing fodder, and the imminent retirement of 30-year city manager Ken Frank inspired the script writers as well.

“Har,” the show’s title, is a take-off on the Broadway musical “Hair,” and the program cover alludes to the resulting record album.

But, there are several other music composers and songwriters whose talents have been bent for the cause, including Leonard Bernstein, Bert Kaempfert, Pete Seger, Cy Coleman, George Gershwin and John Lennon.

As in previous productions, there are no stars here, but there is one standout. Hannah Lawton, the show’s 17-year-old award-winning costume designer.

“When I saw Hannah’s work, I knew I had to hire her for my shows and, the first time she showed up I thought I had hired a baby,” said Burgess Rosen. That was in 2008 when she was already an accomplished clothes designer and seamstress with the unwavering goal of becoming a costume designer.

“I get offended when people confuse costume design with fashion design,” she said. “Fashion is commerce; costumes are art.”

Lawton recently graduated from Dana Hills High School and, until recently, had doubt about pursuing college. After all, she has her eye on the film industry and good connections. Her uncle, J.F. Lawton, wrote the blockbuster film “Pretty Woman.”

The largely self-taught costume designer intends to pursue costume design at Valencia’s Cal Arts. Her inspiration remains a sketch that hung in her childhood room by the eight-time Oscar winning costume designer Edith Head. “I kept seeing the sketch all these years and did not know that it was by Edith until I got into costume design myself,” she recalled.

She’s already picked up high-school awards for costuming for “The Wiz” and for scenic design for “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“I like to express myself and tell stories through my costumes. It’s never about future security or making money,” she said. “Most importantly, I do not want to waste my time.”

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