A Jacquard Gown for a Jewel Box Theater

A Jacquard Gown for a Jewel Box Theater | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

I’m coming to you from a little hiding place in my mind, where I live in an intimate jewel box of a theater that only houses about 250 of my closest friends. Come on in, I have a seat reserved for you. There are plenty of turrets and boxes to keep you cozy— and distanced, if the situation calls for it. Some are even way up high in the rafters, if you really want some personal space....

This beauty was our first stop on September’s mini tour: Ethan’s hometown of Menomonie, Wisconsin. He grew up thinking every town had a theater like this. As did everyone we met that night after the show! 

(I snapped my dear friend and cohort at the piano, unawares. He practices for hours before each show. The music coming from those hands, I'm telling you, we could sell tickets to soundcheck.)

Somehow, after the concert, I ended up perched with Rob in one of those velvet draped boxes, and we enjoyed meeting a masked-up Menomonie immensely from our whimsical vantage point, talking to all our new friends like we were on some sort of Victorian designed float:

Of course I researched every stop and stage beforehand, and made a dress that went with each. I had a head start on this pink jacquard gown—but really, three weeks ago, it was just a prop for camera. The half-boned, self-drafted bodice was pinned to some hastily draped yardage for our “Tea for Two” at-home singing Valentine, recorded across states with Ethan and a highly mischievous Rob. Who needs to finish the back of a dress when you’re only shooting the front, eh? And with nowhere to go, I didn’t see the point in putting a ring on it come February 15.

Stitching it up for real was the obvious choice for our first live performance together in twenty months.

I love jacquard. I love the duality of it. And I love how it suits this scenario: going from a prop on a little screen to a 3D gown in real life ties a neat little double-sided bow in my mind.

There's a bow in reality too: it sits at waist level, right where I used the flip side of this shimmering jacquard. Both sides of the pink floral fit the space to a T, although one of our new friends lamented that the thick rug placed onstage under the grand piano needed to suit my dress better—something in burgundy, maybe? Next time? she promised.

And I promised to come back, with a new dress. Gladly.

I'm gonna address the elephant in the world: yes, it’s kind of scary, after this endless year of doing our best to stay away from folks, to suddenly be taking gargantuan gulps of air for high notes and hugging new friends after shows.

But it’s also not. We’ve done everything we can to be safe and smart, and that includes Le Vaxx, folks, which our trio is, proudly and fully. Four states, three planes, three hotels, two rental cars, a dozen handmade cloth masks, and a 20 pack of KN95s. That's a lot of numbers. And we're all good. Plain and simple, here’s the equation after twenty months away:

Opportunity + Precaution = Work

I understand that equation isn't possible for a lot of the world right now. But if we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity, and have taken all the precautions we can, the only choice for many of us is to do it. The artists that society relied on to bring a smile in this upside-down world simply have to get back to work. If we don’t, the art you’ve scrolled to see won’t be around the day you’re ready to experience it in person.

I’m not talking about stars. I’m talking about working-class musicians, actors, comedians, dancers, costumers, technicians, carpenters, stagehands. The people who make their living through concerts, through content, through performance. The people who are on their way to becoming stars, the people who work days so that nights can be filled with art, the people who will live under the radar forever but are your treasured secret favorite that you can’t wait to introduce your crew to.

Art has always been viewed as a luxury. These endless months of insanity have taught us that it’s a necessity. Those who count sewing as a superpower know for damn sure that creativity is the air we breathe. As for us, we’re doing everything we can to breathe that creative air safely, and with care for our fellow humans. We hope you feel the same, we hope you do the same, so that when you're ready, we can see you again outside all of these tiny screens.


Performance Gowns…or, Back Onstage!


I had an epiphany last week (which will read as “plain common sense” to some): I didn’t need to sew three gowns for my return to the stage. I had plenty of dresses in my closet that hadn’t seen the spotlight for almost two years. Basically a closet full of brand new homemade couture!

Then I tried on a few…and a few more…and realized we’d, uhhhh, grown apart during our pause from the spotlight. Some relationships had grown more distant than others, by like, a good three inches. And then, after such a sensible yet squashed epiphany, I decided it would be enjoyable—easier, even—to sew three gowns start to finish rather than alter a few candidates. 

So seven days of slam sewing began, on top of everything else that life currently entails. At one point, Rob said to me we can buy you dresses if we need to. And then backed away slowly, as if from an approaching bear with her three cubs, when he saw the look on my face.

Yes, I could have made ONE look for all the dates of this mini jazz tour, but each venue is so different! And as a casting director once said to me: You like your clothes to match the part. 


Somehow they’re all done to the point where I *believe* I won’t be sewing in the dressing room. 

The songs of Bacharach, Hal David & Dionne Warwick are the set list. Our first venue (tonight!) is the Mabel Tainter in Menomonie, WI. Ethan’s hometown! Oh did I mention I’ll be performing with The Great Ethan Iverson? Y’all remember Ethan from the thong debate of 2012? His hometown boasts a gorgeous Victorian theater with exquisite backdrops (expect Instagram spam, if you follow me there).  Tomorrow night, Sept 16, we’re at Crooners, a Minneapolis supper club. Then Saturday the 18th we travel to Pinehurst NC for the grand finale at the Bradshaw Performing Arts Center. All venues have measures in place, so if you’re in town and decide to come see us, you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with anyone. Unless you count rubbing shoulders with us after the show, because we’d love to meet you. And by “we” I mean me ‘n the chrome dome. The Rob chrome dome. Although the Ethan chrome dome is very approachable as well. We got chrome domes aplenty.

Time to go sing in the shower and steam a gown. I won’t lie, I’ve got butterflies. But I’m going to remind myself that butterflies mean you’re alive and DOING THINGS. 

Hope you’ve got some good butterflies going on today 💗