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Theatrical threads call Queens home

The Theatre Development Fund moved more than 75,000 costumes to Kaufman Astoria Studios this week. Photo by David LeShay
TimesLedger Newspapers

What do you do with 75,000 fabulous costumes when you have limited closet space at your expensive Manhattan address?

This week the Theatre Development Fund, a nonprofit theatrical rental service known for TKTS, discount booths for tickets to popular performances, moved its massive collection to a 16,000-square-foot space at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens.

“We’re delighted to be in our new home,” said Victoria Bailey, TDF’s executive director. “KAS is a very exciting place. The creative, collaborative environment which flows through the building will be an asset in helping us forge new relationships, while continuing to be easily accessible, both in person and online, to our existing customers.”

The collection is a treasure trove of glitz and glamour: costumes worn, then donated to TDF by actors and stars of Broadway, off-Broadway, opera, film and TV productions. Each garment in the collection, amassed since the 1970s, has a colorful story to tell.

Recent donations have been from “West Side Story” and “Men in Black III,” which was filmed in Astoria earlier this year.

“Some donations I remember are from Broadway shows like, ‘Shrek,’ ‘Rent,’ a Joel Grey ‘Cabaret’ outfit, a garment worn by Jude Law in ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Law & Order’ police uniforms, some Bob Mackie creations from various 1970s TV shows,” said David LeShay, director of communications at TDF. “Costumes from ‘Ragtime’ — the label of one coat shows it was made for Patti LuPone in a 2008 encore production of ‘Gypsy.’”

For the well-endowed, there’s Anna Nicole Smith’s leopard-print number.

TDF rents costumes at reasonable prices, making it possible for schools and regional theaters to mount professional-looking shows while producing a greater number of new works by keeping production costs down.

“Performing arts companies, colleges, high schools, community and charitable groups are among those eligible to take advantage of all the collection has to offer,” said Stephen Cabral, TDF director.

In 2010, 949 productions were mounted by 466 organizations in 33 states using garments from TDF.

Amazingly, the collection database is not computerized. Cabral, who joined TDF 18 years ago after a career as a costume designer, has memorized the vast inventory.

“We are excited to have TDF’s costume collection move into the KAS campus,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “Housing their collection in the studio gives the organization a presence in a campus bustling with creativity, top productions and theater companies. We look forward to helping TDF grow its business and develop new relationships with production companies, producers and costume designers that come to Astoria to produce feature films and TV shows.”

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morey from forest hills says:

What a great business idea which would not be known if not for the excellent, informative and well written article!
Dec. 4, 2011, 1:49 pm

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