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Tulsa Ballet costume shop to make hospital masks

Tulsa Ballet costume shop to make hospital masks

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The wardrobe staff of Tulsa Ballet typically spends its days working on, and surrounded by, some of the most beautiful costumes ever to grace a Tulsa stage.

But for this week, the staff is devoting all its time and energy to working with 8-by-14-inch rectangles of plain navy and black cotton fabric.

These pieces of costume remnants are being transformed into masks that Tulsa Ballet is donating to area hospitals and health services.

“Our production designer, Joe Futral, sent me a story about people who were making masks for the Stillwater Medical Center,” said Shawn Sturdevant, director of costumes for Tulsa Ballet. “I found a pattern online and made a prototype on Friday. I spoke with Marcello (Angelini, the company’s artistic director) about this, and he thought it was a good idea.”

On Monday, Sturdevant, along with wardrobe supervisor Tori Highfill and costume assistant Maddie Rice, began turning scraps of cloth into masks.

The masks are made of four layers of 100% cotton, used because it is sturdy and yet permeable enough to breathe through, while still filtering out many airborne particles.

“Satin and silk might look better, but they’re not the right fabrics for something like this,” Sturdevant said, laughing.

Sturdevant and his staff are attaching ties, rather than elastic, to help the masks more customizable to the wearer.

The fabric was cleaned before being cut into pieces for the masks, and the finished masks will be washed and dried again before being packaged and sent off.

“We have enough material to make between 200 and 300 masks,” Sturdevant said. “We have set up a production line, and we think we can make about 60 masks a day.”

So far, Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa and the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, a nonprofit that works with people with mental health issues, have requested masks. The company has also reached out to Saint Francis and St. John hospitals.

“These are made to be used by hospital staff and visitors who are not in direct contact with patients with the coronavirus,” Sturdevant said. “It’s a way to free up the medical-grade masks for hospital staff. One advantage of these masks is that they can be washed and reused numerous times.”

Sturdevant said he has blocked out a week to devote to making the masks.

“Because it could be that things take a turn for the better, and we’ll have to get back to making ballet costumes,” he said. “But then, I am an optimist.”

For Highfill and Rice, working on the mask project has been a way to hold on to a bit of normalcy in the middle of an unusually fraught time.

“In a way, it’s made dealing with this whole situation a little more manageable,” Highfill said.

“I was really excited and happy to come into work,” Rice said, “and be able to do something that contributes back to the community.”


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James D. Watts Jr.

918-581-8478

james.watts@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: watzworld

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