Friday, February 27, 2009

Claassen reviving one-woman show on Edith Head | ®

Claassen reviving one-woman show on Edith Head ®

Published: 02.27.2009
Claassen reviving one-woman show on Edith Head
She portrays the Oscar-winning fashion designer
By Kathleen Allen

Edith Head died in 1981.

Yet, the great Oscar-winning costume designer, lives.
Thank Invisible Theatre’s Susan Claassen for that.

She remounts her one-woman show, “A Conversation with Edith Head,” for a limited run next week.
Claassen first resurrected Head in 2002 with a script fashioned by Claassen; Paddy Calistro, co-author with the designer of “Edith Head’s Hollywood”; and Tucson director Carol Calkins.

Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own, drawing crowds at Scotland’s Fringe Festival, packing them in at a small theater in London’s West End and bringing it to adoring fans around this country.

Claassen was watching a television biography about Head when she realized her remarkable resemblance to the designer. A play was born.

It takes place a few weeks before Head’s death. As Claassen-as-Head paces the stage, hand on hip, eyes looking up and down as though assessing — and dismissing — what you’re wearing, she talks about her career. And what a career: For 44 years, Head designed costumes for 1,131 films, received 35 Academy Award nominations and won eight Oscars.She dressed such weighty stars as as Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Paul Newman and Grace Kelly.

Performances for the 90-minute “A Conversation With Edith Head” are 7:30 p.m Thursday, 8 p.m. next Friday and March 7, and 3 p.m. March 8 at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. Tickets are $25, with half-price tickets one-half hour before the show —if they are available. And we wouldn’t bet on that. Call 882-9721.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Claassen's play about Hollywood icon adapts to locale

Claassen's play about Hollywood icon adapts to locale

Claassen's play about Hollywood icon adapts to locale

February 25, 2009, 5:08 p.m.

Tucson Citizen

Just like an evolving work of art, Invisible Theatre's original production "A Conversation with Edith Head" has evolved.

Back in 2002 when IT's artistic director Susan Claassen wrote and made her debut in this one-woman show - giving a much-praised portrayal of the iconic Hollywood costume designer - the story was set on the Universal City Studio Tour where she had a bungalow. Now Claassen makes adjustments to her intimate portrait so it is set in whatever city - or country - she happens to be in for the show.

So when "A Conversation with Edith Head" returns to the Tucson stage March 5, the dialogue will be adjusted so there are direct references to the Old Pueblo.

"Her husband loved Southwestern art, and they would come here looking for pieces to collect," Claassen says. "They also went to Nogales. And remember that 'The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean' was shot here, " Claassen adds. She doesn't expect any shortage of Tucson references.

"Edith Head knew the value of reaching out to the public, and we do that, too. It is especially rewarding for me to meet people who actually knew her."

There were some particularly touching incidents in London, where the show played for three weeks in 2007. The London run followed the play's successful three weeks at Scotland's Edinburgh Festival Fringe ("There is no such thing as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they always say 'Festival Fringe' Claassen assures us), where the show was officially declared a sell-out.

"Out of 2,000 acts, there were only 200 that officially sold out," Claassen says proudly.
"When we went to London, people were always telling us stories about their personal connections to her, especially older people. One said how they would see Edith Head's name during World War II and just seeing that name would give them hope."

Edith Head lived up to that promise, going on to design the costumes for the stars of many pictures for decades after the war ended. The last film she worked on was Steve Martin's comedy "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," released in 1982.

The iconic costume designer had a particularly close working relationship with another Brit, Alfred Hitchcock. Claassen is especially taken by the gowns Head designed for Grace Kelly in "Rear Window" and "To Catch A Thief."

"In 'Rear Window' the clothes she wears actually progress the story," Claassen points out.
In a complementary event, the Loft Cinema is screening "Rear Window" at 1 p.m. Sunday. Claassen will be there to talk about Head's costumes for the picture and dish a little dirt on Hitchcock's battles with uptight censors to keep some sexual tension in this 1954 classic thriller.

"In film, you design for the close-ups," Claassen explains. "That's what made the neckline so important."
"Edith would be on the set so if the censors complained about too much cleavage, she would slip in a large flower, or something else fashionable."

Hitchcock and the costume designer worked especially well together, says Claassen, who has become an expert on the subject.

"Edith would say, 'With every director you have a special language. But with Hitch I didn't even need words.'"

Claassen also feels a strong connection to this lady who was equally famous for her bangs.
"On a lot of levels I do relate to her," Claassen says. "I love doing the role. Whenever I'm in costume, I always stay in character. I feel personally responsible for representing her accurately.
"On a lot of levels I can relate to her directly. To her determination, and her love for style. Both of us have such passion for what we do.

"But she is different from me, too. She is more reserved, less animated than I am. Her sense of humor is different. She didn't smile as much as I do."

However there is no denying the physical look they share. When Claassen is stage-ready, the resemblance to Head is uncanny.

"If you Google her I come up a lot. The Web site for the Biography Channel had a picture of her, but it was actually a photo of me.

"We did notify them of the error," Claassen adds with a little smile.

Monday, February 9, 2009

FASHIONABLY PERVERSE: HITCHCOCK’S REAR WINDOW introduced by Invisible Theater's Susan Claassen | The Loft Cinema

FASHIONABLY PERVERSE: HITCHCOCK’S REAR WINDOW introduced by Invisible Theater's Susan Claassen The Loft Cinema

FASHIONABLY PERVERSE: HITCHCOCK’S REAR WINDOW introduced by Invisible Theater's Susan Claassen

Sunday, March 1st at 1:00 p.m.
Admission: $6.00 / Loft members: $4.75

Fear and fashion make a beautiful couple in Hitchcock's suspense classic REAR WINDOW, introduced by Invisible Theater's Susan Claassen, who will dish the dirt on legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head's iconic designs for star Grace Kelly, Hitch's battles with the censors, and much more!

**Enter our free raffle to win a copy of the new 25th Anniversary edition of the classic book Edith Head's Hollywood, by Edith Head and Paddy Calistro, with a foreward by Bette Davis!**

The suspense. The binoculars. The Edith Head gowns!

Few films in Hollywood history have so creatively combined fashion and fear as Hitchcock’s nail-biting 1954 thriller REAR WINDOW, starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. With its darkly twisted tale of voyeurism, murder and sexual tension, this perverse slice of vintage “Hitch” would be an all-time classic for those elements alone, but equally unforgettable is the breathtakingly blonde Grace Kelly, serenely gliding through all the madness in a stunning series of gorgeous gowns designed by legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. As Lisa, the gorgeous fashion model with a killer wardrobe and nerves of steel, Kelly’s witty flirtations with a wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart steam up the screen in ways that drove 1950s censors mad back in the day and almost make today’s viewers forget that a sinister murderer may be lurking across one of the most famous courtyards in movie history.

REAR WINDOW’s fashionable perversity isn’t lost on Invisible Theater’s Artistic Director Susan Claassen, who will introduce this special screening by discussing Edith Head’s iconic costumes on display in the film, how fashion and fear fuel Hitchcock’s dark desires, and why conservative 1950s censors put Jimmy Stewart in a leg cast. Claassen, who offers an uncanny evocation of Edith Head as the star and co-writer of the internationally-acclaimed one-woman stage show, A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD (running March 5th – 8th at Invisible Theater), will offer wit, wisdom and insight (not to mention a little gossip) on the late, great Hollywood costumer designer, and reveal how Edith Head managed to spin high fashion beauty out of one of the scariest movies ever made.

See Susan Claassen live on stage in A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD, March 5th – 8th, at Invisible Theater.

Visit the Invisible Theater website at for more information.

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, 112 mins., Not Rated)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 1, 2009
James Rana, WFDU, Interviews Susan Claassen about A Conversation with Edith Head