Dressing Up Living Wisdom School – Interview with Maghi Weber

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In this edition of the newsletter our “friend” is Maghi Weber. Maghi has been behind the scenes for many years as our magical costume lady for Family Entertainment Night. Maghi and her husband, Vasanta, first moved to Ananda in 1985 from Southern California; Maghi had been a preschool and Kindergarten teacher for several years before moving here. Known lovingly as “Miss Mary,” she was the LWS Kindergarten teacher for her first four years at Ananda. It soon became known that she had other creative talents, and in the early 90’s she took over as the manager of Mountain Song in Nevada City, Ananda’s clothing and gift shop. From Mountain Song she returned to the Expanding Light Retreat to manage the boutique there in 1999.

Maghi, however, has always had another unpaid job–”Costume Lady Extraordinaire.” When asked how she began her career in costuming, Maghi replied that she has always loved beautiful things, from flowers to lovely, unusual clothing. Also, she learned to sew as a young girl. Under the guiding influence of her mother, she became an astute shopper at an early age, always able to find just the right things at the right price. She says she has ‘good shopping karma.’ To quote her: “I’ve always felt that I could find or make anything I needed in the world of clothes or costumes.”

The following story is a testament to her attitude. For the Joan of Arc play that the high school recently performed, Maghi wanted to find the perfect Bishop’s “mitre” for the imposing judge who tries and condemns Joan. On-line she found a beautiful white brocade “mitre” for $300. Knowing that we don’t have that kind of budget for play costumes, she went poking around in a fabric shop a few days later and found the exact same fabric, a remnant on sale, and made the bishop’s “mitre” for about $10!

When Maghi first moved to Ananda she brought along four of her favorite costumes from her pubic school days. Her first costume job at Ananda was making outfits for one of our early live creche scenes. From there she graduated to making more elaborate costumes for the Victorian Christmas Nativity Scene that Ananda has done for many years in Nevada City. Her costume collection has burgeoned tremendously since those early days. She has collected donations from Ananda members and Expanding Light guests, has scoured thrift shops and consignment stores, and has sewn and embellished hundreds of outfits. The Costume Shop has had several homes over its long incarnation, from its humble beginnings in Maghi’s basement, to the back of a big truck, to the old goat shed, and finally to the large space it now inhabits across the meadow from the Expanding Light.

The Costume Shop is an incredible asset to the community and to our school. Maghi has costumed hundreds of characters over the years: countless Halloween ghouls, the three wise men, Ann of Green Gables, The Wicked Witch of the West, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Tigger, to name just a few in her vast repertoire. How important is it for a child to feel authentic and special as his or her character? It’s essential, really, in order to engage the child and create a successful play.

Maghi tells a story of one of the first plays she costumed for an early Family Entertainment Night, “The Importance of Being Ernest.” The teacher was depending on makeshift outfits that didn’t exactly express late 19th century England. She was having a seemingly insurmountable problem getting one of the teenage boys to “become” his character. No amount of prompting could get him to portray his character in the right light. But as soon as Maghi outfitted him a proper period costume, complete with pince-nez, he burst forth with enthusiasm and truly became his character. Such is the power of inspired costuming. Thank you, Maghi, for your dedication, your deep appreciation of beauty, and your support of our school over the years.

To see some pictures of our kids in costumes from the most recent plays please click here.

By Hridaya Awell