The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is having a rummage sale of old costumes — but is asking bargain hunters not to turn the event into something that looks like a Black Friday stampede at a shopping mall.
"If anyone is yelling, pushing, shoving or hoarding, we'll ask them to leave," said OSF Costume Rentals Manager Emily Ehrlich Inget. "We want it to be safe for everyone."
The rummage sale of vintage and contemporary clothing, costumes made by the OSF Costume Shop, shoes and accessories will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, in the parking lot of the OSF Production Building at 408 Talent Ave., Talent. The majority of the clothing is in fair to distressed condition, ideal for Halloween or one-time use.
Although rummage-sale aficionados are notorious early birds, OSF asks that people not arrive or begin forming lines before 9 a.m. The production building is in a residential neighborhood with limited parking. OSF is asking people to be courteous to neighbors, use designated parking spaces and not block driveways or bike lanes.
This isn't the first time OSF has held a sale to get rid of old costumes it stores warehouse-style in the production building. Although 11,000 square feet is devoted to costume storage — equivalent to five generously sized houses — it's still not enough.
"We need to make room for all the costumes that come in at the end of the season," Ehrlich Inget said. "Every three to four years, we reach capacity. The Costume Shop generates 500-plus costumes every season. We're always adding in those new costumes, and eventually we run out of room."
OSF keeps many of its costumes for future use and also rents out everything from top hats to Elizabethan gowns for use in movies, television, theater, opera, photo shoots and more.
Ehrlich Inget said OSF isn't getting rid of its prime stock during the rummage sale. Instead, it's selling off costumes that are faded, need minor repairs or are too idiosyncratic to rent well or use in other plays.
"We want to manage people's expectations," she said.
The clothing is not in good enough condition for theater companies wishing to build their costume stock, or for people who would like to resell items online or through consignment shops, she said.
In 2010, OSF sent out word that it would be having a rummage sale. Oregon Public Broadcasting picked up the story and the news went national. At the time, OSF was storing costumes in a building at the corner of Hersey and Helman streets in Ashland. A line formed that stretched blocks away to the Best Western Bard's Inn on North Main Street.
"You would have thought a rock concert was going on," Ehrlich Inget said.
Despite the best efforts of OSF staff members to keep the sale orderly, it turned into a free-for-all, said OSF Associate Director of Communications Eddie Wallace.
"When you get a few hundred people, a few hundred costume pieces, and really cheap prices, apparently it brings out the worst in people," he said.
In 2013, OSF tried again but didn't publicize the rummage sale and offered fewer items. That event went more smoothly, Ehrlich Inget said.
"We're hoping this year will be more of that mellow-type sale. We really want people to stay calm and keep their heads. It's just clothes. But people get really excited about the costumes and want a piece of OSF," Ehrlich Inget said.
Prices will range from $1 to $200, with most of the items costing less than $10.
Many of the more interesting costumes are on racks marked with prices, such as $10, $25, $75, $100 and more.
Ehrlich Inget pointed out a maroon Elizabethan gown being sold for $75.
"The reason we are selling it is because it's not in the best shape. It's got a few tears. It's got some wear along the edges. It has had a very, very good, long life with years in our own productions and years and years of rentals," she said.
A foam-green vintage dress priced at $10 is beginning to fade at the shoulders. An unusual warrior's tunic made of black fabric and plastic is priced at $100. It was created for OSF's production of "Throne of Blood."
"There's nothing actually wrong with it. It's in really good condition, but it's just one of those pieces that is just so specific that we just don't really have a way to reuse it and it hasn't really rented. So we think it will probably have a good home with someone who gets it at the rummage sale," Ehrlich Inget said.
Although OSF is trying to keep expectations within reason, the costumes do represent unique pieces of theater history. Many have sewn-in labels listing the actor, play and character.
A label on a brown leather vest lists the play as "Doctor Faustus," the actor as Peterson and the character as Devil. A lacy pink gown with decorative gold stitching was worn by Linda Alper when she played Hippolyta in William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," according to its label.
Contemporary costumes range from U.S. Army fatigues to a hot pink velour track suit.
The pieces also reveal some of the tricks the Costume Shop employs. An elaborate court outfit for a man has a hidden zipper that allowed the actor to jump in and out of the outfit during quick wardrobe changes. With many actors taking on multiple roles in each play or changing costumes for different scenes, fast wardrobe changes are essential.
Many of the costumes are surprisingly heavy, showing how physically arduous acting can be and how people today take lightweight modern clothing for granted.
OSF will accept only cash and credit card payments during the rummage sale. All prices are firm, items are sold as-is, and all sales are final.