Backstage Life: Scott Marr

Scott Marr—Wardrobe, Wigs, and Makeup Director

What is your role here at Lyric, and how long have you held the position?

I am the wardrobe, wigs, and makeup director, and I have been with Lyric since 1990. In my role, I manage the budgets, vendors, and wardrobe/wig department staffing for each of our productions. I oversee the wigs, makeup, and costumes for our shows, which means ensuring the overall look for each of the performers matches the vision of the production’s design team. Because I have a background in art and design, I’ve also designed the sets and costumes for Lyric’s Ernani, The Pearl Fishers, The Girl of the Golden West, The Magic Victrola, and El Pasado Nunca Se Termina. In addition to that, I am a co-curator of the Mary B. Galvin Opera Club Gallery, located in the lower level of the Lyric Opera House.

What led you to work at Lyric?

I’ve always had an interest in art and architecture. I majored in scenic design, which allowed me to combine all of my interests into an area of study. Before I finished school, I met former Lyric general director Ardis Kranik and then-technical director Drew Landmesser when I presented one of my set designs at a convention, and was ultimately granted an internship with the company in 1990. I was immediately struck by the scale and artistry of Lyric’s productions—it was breathtaking. I knew very little about opera but the sublime sound of the music, the mix of all the arts into one, was really evocative to me. The opportunity to work for such an established company was the chance of a lifetime.


What’s a typical day like for you?

I am usually at the gym by 5am. I typically then begin each day starting around 7am reading and responding to emails. Once I’m in the office, I touch base with my teams to see what the plan is for the day and what tasks need to be accomplished. Broadly speaking, the rest of my day consists of problem-solving, scheduling, discussing budgets, and dealing with staff needs. I also spend time answering questions from designers and vendors.


What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

Completely understanding the intricacies and logistical work necessary to put costumes and wigs on the stage within the allotted time and resources. I am always challenged with learning to attack problems from different angles while thinking of creative solutions. In my role, it is important to be a great collaborator, team member, and leader. My goal is to always be open to change and letting things evolve as they need to, within the reality of budgetary parameters.

 
What keeps you committed to the work you do?

Remembering that working at Lyric, working in the arts in general, is a privilege. Every morning when I enter both the wig and wardrobe departments and see all of the amazing craftsmanship and skill involved, it is very inspiring. Seeing a production’s creative team present a design for the first time, and realizing the imagination of what might be possible, is also intriguing. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with legendary, trailblazing, gifted visual artists whose work graces the Lyric stage. The first time I hear the orchestra for every production we do, hearing the chorus sing full out, witnessing world-renowned opera stars caress every note they sing, seeing a beautiful scenic and lighting transition executed by our amazing crews. These moments foster my yearning obsession for the artform.

 

What’s something about your job that people might not know?

I am constantly using my calculator. When a design is presented, one of the first items of business is pricing it out. I take the sketches and estimate what materials and labor will cost. I then gather bids from vendors for actual construction costs. It is important for me to ensure we are on track within the budget we have. The same goes for labor costs. I meet with the costume director and wigmaster to determine the house labor and time needed to mount each production.


Favorite Lyric moment?

The first opera I ever saw was Phillip Glass’s Satyagraha at Lyric in 1987, and that left me mesmerized and speechless. Twenty-one years later, I was asked to design both the sets and costumes for a new production of Ernani, and that was beyond any dream or opportunity I could have imagined. Another highlight was Jesus Christ Superstar two seasons ago. That production showed Lyric’s stamina, evolution, capabilities, and the expansive resources and talent the company has to offer.

Beyond opera, what are your other passions?

My husband, Andy, reminds me daily of the joy and beauty of life. I like spending time with our dog, Gunner, who reminds me to laugh and love. I am a DIY’er and avid gardener. Fitness keeps my inner fire burning. At the end of the day, I am in bliss when I am painting in my studio. I originally came into my career as an artist, and while I love collaborating with others, creating something of my own is a soulfully personal experience.

What are your warmest memories of working on the 19/20 Season's cancelled Ring cycle?

In January of 2015 I flew to London and spent a week with costume designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca in her studio. Costume supervisor Rachel Dickson also joined us. Every morning we would start early in Marie-Jeanne’s garden sun room going over the details of all the costumes for the Ring. Otherwise the warmest memories are moments—seeing an individual craftsperson in the wardrobe or wig department work on something and appreciating the most minute details; hearing Rachel and Marie-Jeanne within earshot discussing the draping of a garment on a form; stepping into rehearsal and seeing some incredible staging moment; working with Lyric’s production stage manager John Coleman, who seemed to have every aspect in his brain; and realizing every single person on the stage and backstage is part of the whole of the greatness that Lyric presents.


What are you most looking forward to in the 2020/21 Season? 

There is always that exhilarating feeling of starting a new season— tackling new projects. It is a bit early still to say exactly; for me, productions reveal themselves as we begin to work on them. A production that I might not be so interested in the beginning suddenly sparks my interest after hearing the artists sing in rehearsal, or I may gain new appreciation of the music as it is piped through the hall speakers during an orchestra reading.

I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing Sondra Radvanovsky as Tosca. We did a preliminary fitting while she was at Lyric for The Queen of Spades; she will be wearing a reproduction of the classic Act-Two dress that was originally designed for Maria Callas. Sondra looked stunningly beautiful, as you can imagine—she is a goddess. And of course I love working with director Louisa Muller, who’s an International Opera Awards nominee.

I am also looking forward to the return of The Marriage of Figaro. I adore working with Barbara Gaines, and of course it will be great to work with my dear friend, costume designer Susan Mickey.

David Hockney’s Rake’s Progress is a classic. Prior to this I had only seen the production in photographs and now it will be rewarding to actually see it in real life. I worked with Mr. Hockney in 1990 as an intern, so those memories will certainly come back to me during this. 

Let’s be hopeful the world of opera, the arts, and Lyric will return with a new spirit and we will thrive after facing our current world pandemic.

Photo: Simon Pauly