The Heartbeat of The Costume House

Every successful organization has a heart or centre that makes it tick. The heartbeat of the Northumberland Players is its volunteers.  The Players’ volunteers are skilled in many ways (drama/acting, music, costuming, sewing, staging, painting, construction, business, etc).  

One of these volunteers is Lynne Templer. Lynne has been involved since the inception of The Players… first as a youth and then adult. 

Lynne Templer receives a Major Civic Award For Arts and Culture in recognition of her work with Northumberland Players at the 2022 Cobourg Civic Awards.

The jewel of The Players is our Costume House. The Costume House has well over 10,000 costumes, garments and items to be worn. It is the largest resource of its kind between Toronto and Montreal.  It caters to theatre groups all over Ontario, movies, elementary school productions, and high school productions, and has provided costumes for schools in Alberta and the Maritimes.

It has been recognized by Guillermo del Toro’s staff both through rentals and donations. One of Guillermo del Toro’s costume people jokingly suggested she goes to Milan, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Cobourg.

Costume House volunteers have witnessed actors and members of theatre groups, from locations throughout Ontario, tour the Costume House and jaw drop in awe. 

The heartbeat of the Northumberland Players’ Costume House is Lynne Templer. Lynne is passionate about the costume collection and instills this love of beautiful period pieces in the volunteers she works with and supervises.  She has an innate knowledge of fashion periods and what will work on stage. She is the volunteer responsible for this fabulous collection and spends hours maintaining it and meeting with clients.  

The Costume House moved to its present location on Campbell Street after 30 odd years over the Henley Arcade on King Street. This was a massive job and involved carrying much of our present stock (again, 30 years of collecting) down three flights of stairs and into waiting vehicles parked on King St. 

Lynne supervised this; organizing volunteers, packing, accurate labelling, dismantling of racks, etc.   She single handedly carried down numerous bins and boxes, late in the evening, when other volunteers had gone home. 

This move, by comparison, made the moving of a household seem like a cinch.  The organization of costumes, garments, shoes, hats, lingerie, wigs, sewing notions, fabrics and jewelry at the new location were all Lynne’s responsibility.  Lynne is a deft hand at working with saws, sanders, drills and tools in general.  The creation of extra shelving, racks and needed storage often fell into her capable hands and hours were spent by her, alone with her tools, creating needed items. 

Costumes were organized by period, theme, and shows, a difficult and time consuming task. As well as costumes, the collection includes thousands of garments of clothing, some from the early 1800s and many from other cultures. These items of clothing had to be organized by time period, size, type and other considerations, always keeping in mind that volunteers needed to be able to access them. The parameters and responsibility of this fell on Lynne’s willing and knowledgeable shoulders.   

The year leading up to the sesquicentennial saw the Victoria Hall volunteers approach the Costume House with regards to doing a joint fashion show. The location would obviously be Victoria Hall and the fashions would come from the Costume House.  The Vic Hall volunteers would organize the Concert Hall, provide refreshments and ambiance.  The Costume House would provide the models and show.

Once again, Lynne Templer was a central figure with the majority of responsibility on her shoulders.  The show was called 150 Years of Fashion, and Lynne made sure the fashions were true to the periods which extended back to the early 1800’s. It took Lynne approximately 3 hours to outfit one model; time to change garments, hair dos, etc had to be kept in mind. With over 20 models from various age groups, including one 90 year old, this was a mammoth task.

Lynne also took responsibility for writing the script used by the two moderators, Beth and Jamie Hunt. 150 Years of Fashion was a great success and created a lovely bond between the Costume House and the Vic Hall volunteers. The off shoot of this show is that the Costume House has received donations of fabulous garments, both vintage and cherished. The show made the community aware of the value and care the Costume House took of antique and special clothing. This is a direct reflection of both Lynne’s knowledge of fashion eras and costume periods. 

The Costume House has worked with the drama departments of the two Cobourg High schools, Bowmanville High School, plus other schools in the area.  Lynne is generally the contact and does the leg work. Before the students and staff arrive she will set up a number of racks full of clothing suitable for the production, period, etc. In dealing with the students, she is empathetic and kind, keeping in mind the needs of teenagers.

Bowmanville High school was doing a production of Grease. The “Pink Ladies” in the show needed pink windbreaker-style jackets.  Rather than have these teens look disjointed, Lynne purchased the fabric and single handedly sewed a set of six pink satin jackets for the show.  

The Northumberland Players have a number of volunteers skilled at resourcing, sewing and designing costumes for various productions. That said, seldom does a show go on stage without some advice or input from Lynne. Frequently, she will be asked to modify or sew from scratch a costume or part of a costume at the last minute. 

In the everyday running of the Costume House, costumes and garments are rented out for a variety of purposes. The Costume House is “not for profit” and under Lynne’s guidance, this is quietly taken into consideration in rentals, with utmost respect for clients.  A year or so ago Downton Abbey parties were frequent and Lynne made sure we had outfits organized and ready for those interested. Prom dresses and tuxes are rentals, and on occasion vintage or special wedding dresses.

When clients come in they are welcomed and under Lynne’s guidance their needs are generally met. She has the artistic sense to combine garments that work for odd requests. The knowledge and understanding she has of costume periods and clothing traditions is recognized by other volunteers. Seldom is there a costume challenge that she can’t meet by either artistic combination or sewing.  

Lynne Templer’s skills, enthusiasm, knowledge of needs of actors on stage, knowledge of theatrical productions, and knowledge of costume eras is daunting and admired by those around her. Her work ethic and hours spent at the Costume House are unparalleled.  Lynne is truly a gift to theatre in Northumberland and beyond.  It has been suggested that under Lynne’s guidance and passion the Costume House has a collection with items worth museum designation.  

Her value to the arts in Cobourg is demonstrated even before taking into account her acting abilities and stage managing prowess. Lynne is truly a gift to local theatre and the arts.