Our Ancestors stink!
Both figuratively and literally.
“Ruddigore” depicts a scene in which generations of Ancestors return from the dead to ensure their legacy of evil deeds is being carried out. Kinda stinky behavior, but it’s one of my favorite sequences in the show. It starts off eerie, then becomes hauntingly beautiful, then high-energy chaos, then hilarious, then genuinely frightening, then hauntingly beautiful again.
There are several different directions you can go with the look of the un-dead Ancestors. We decided to go with ragged and rotten — and we’ve succeeded on both counts!
Our original Ancestor costumes were a bit too flat and plain looking; so I took them home to be re-worked. They now have several layers of tattered, shredded, and knotted fabrics in various combinations of muslin, gauze, linen, etc.
The layers of fabric helped, but everything was a shade of off-white. So they still appeared rather flat onstage.
Then came the dye!
I’ve been experimenting with natural dyes for my yarn lately, so I had some on hand. And I firmly believe in the philosophy of working with what you’ve got.
I decided to use acorns and iron acetate (made from soaking iron in vinegar for a couple of weeks). I love iron acetate in particular because it reacts differently to different fabrics — giving a range of color from gray to brown to a deep rusty orange. Perfect for tattered shrouds!
I used a variety of techniques including tie-dyeing, dip-dyeing, and applying the dye with a spray bottle. And I’m quite pleased with the results.
But the smell!
I, myself, don’t find it that off-putting — it’s an earthy metallic smell. But it is rather strong. And now each of the Ancestors walks around in their own private little miasma of misery. Quite fitting for the roles they’re playing. I would think it would help them get into character.
I’ve only had one Ancestor complain to me personally about the odor. I feel his pain. But I do think the smell will continue to fade in time. Meanwhile, I have to commend them all for performing within the whiff of death.
So when you see our evil Ancestors singing and dancing onstage next weekend, just try to remember that they’re stewing in their own wretched funkiness.
For those of you interested in natural dye: the blue/gray yarn in Mad Margaret’s costume was dyed with black beans; and Despard’s purple top hat was dyed with red cabbage.
The more you know!