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St. Louis Post Article about the Singers Mask

Costume designer creates a mask that helps singers, instrumentalists get back to work

The Singer's Mask, designed by Robin McGee, has been popular with choirs.Courtesy of Open Jar Studios

Calvin Wilson During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the folks who toil behind the scenes on theatrical productions have found themselves unemployed. But costume designer Robin L. McGee has been anything but idle. McGee, who has worked on Muny productions including “Cinderella,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” is project manager with the Broadway Relief Project. Composed of New York-based designers and stitchers who normally lend their talents to Broadway shows, the project is now focused on manufacturing masks in response to the health crisis. Recently, McGee, of Highland, spoke with Go! Magazine about her work and what it entails. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. Theatrical costume designer Robin McGee of HighlandPhoto by Jon Gitchoff Q • What’s the background of the Broadway Relief Project? A • I partnered with Jeff Whiting (president of rehearsal space Open Jar Studios), and we started making hospital gowns for New Yorkers. We employ a lot of costume people and wardrobe people. We just saw a need and (decided) to fill it. We have a crew of about eight that work in the studio every day and people in different steps throughout the process. Q • Had you ever been involved in running a business before? A • As a costume designer, it was very much a learning curve — like, where do I buy 30,000 yards of fabric? But, it’s been thrilling, actually. The Singer’s Mask is what we’re most known for. Q • Describe the Singer’s Mask, which is one of the items available for purchase at A • I created the Singer’s Mask, and we’ve gotten really great feedback. It sticks away from your mouth, so it’s not right on your mouth. And it allows for a clear tone. It sort of looks a little duckbill-ish, but that’s been the only criticism. A lot of choirs are using them, especially college and high school choirs. Because of its popularity, we’ve made (masks) for instrumentalists as well — for horn players and flute players. Obviously, if you’re playing the strings or drums, you can just wear a regular mask. Designers at Open Jar Studios in New York cut fabric to be used in the production of gowns for medical workers. Courtesy of Open Jar Studios The Instrumentalist's Mask, designed by Robin McGee, has stretch panels that close around a musical instrument. Courtesy of Open Jar Studios Q • Were there other masks for instrumentalists before you came up with yours? A • Other masks for marching bands basically just had a flap. You just opened a flap and put a trumpet to your mouth. And I was like: “That’s stupid. Why are you even wearing a mask?” If we’re wearing masks to contain our own germs, we need to somehow be able to control that. So that’s where two stretch panels come in — (they) close back around the instrument, to keep your germs to yourself as much as humanly possible. Q • Are your mask designs patented? And how is business going? A • The patent is pending. It takes a while to get; we have a one-year provisional patent right now. You have to have technical drawings, and it takes a lot of money. But we’ve filed the initial paperwork. We’ve sold a total of over 100,000 masks — primarily the Singer’s Mask. It’s been a little unbelievable. A designer with the Broadway Relief Project builds a prototype for a hospital gown. Courtesy of Open Jar Studios "It sort of looks a little duckbill-ish, but that’s been the only criticism. A lot of choirs are using them, especially college and high school choirs." Robin L. McGee


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