Sharing a Piece of History

Treasures will be up for grabs at Invisible Theatre’s costume and prop yard sale

Celebrating its 48-year anniversary, Tucson’s Invisible Theatre has just kicked off a new season and is gearing up for a costume and prop yard sale fundraiser event.

The yard sale, scheduled for Sunday, October 7, is the theater’s first in more than 10 years. Treasure hunters are encouraged to arrive early to find the most unique items.

“The storage is busting at the seams,” says Maryann Trombino-Arthur, Invisible Theatre’s costume designer. “We have quite a bit of vintage clothing from the ’40s, ’60s, ’80s and ’90s.”

There will also be a wide variety of hats, shoes and accessories along with outerwear and men’s suits. Nun costumes from Nunsense and costumes of playing cards from When Pigs Fly will also be available.

Other items at the yard sale will include past set decorations, furniture, picture frames and more.

“We’ve got some unique items like big tubes of lipstick and a sign for a comedy club,” says James Blair, associate artistic director.

The fundraiser is important to the theater. It raises money for yearly operating costs and the theater’s Pastime Players program. The program is held at Doolen Middle School and provides a creative outlet for special needs kids. The theater team helps them rehearse singing and dancing and the kids put on a show each April.

The collaboration and shared vision of the Invisible Theatre staff members is a reason for its success, Trombino-Arthur says. She has worked with the theater since 1986 designing costumes. She earned a BSA in costume design and is an instructor and manages the costume department at the University of Arizona. Sometimes she shops at thrift shops to try to find the right look, other times she builds the costume herself, making the pattern, buying the fabric and trim and sewing it all together.

The team is also proud of the professional standards the theater holds.

“The care of the clothing is the same as an equity house. It’s cleaned on a regular basis. There are designated call times for actors and everything is very detail-oriented,” Trombino-Arthur says.

For its 2018-2019 season, the Invisible Theatre has six productions in its line-up. Blair, who has been with the theater for 25 years, says Invisible Theatre has really “taken on a voice with female playwrights and directors.”

All shows this season are Arizona statewide or Southwest premieres of plays that include The Busy World is Hushed by Keith Bunin, Zero Hour by Jim Brochu and 20th Century Blues by Susan Miller.

The theater is small, housed in a refurbished laundromat in a nondescript strip center with a dry cleaner next door. It seats about 80 people.

“It’s like watching theater in your living room,” Trombino-Arthur says. There’s a small crew of about three full-time employees and various volunteers and actors that ensure performances run smoothly.

Being in business for 48 years means the Invisible Theatre has seen changes over the years. Mostly, it’s the audiences, Trombino-Arthur says. “That’s really what’s changed. It’s not in how we work, but what the audience wants to see. We no longer do two-hour plays with an intermission. Now we do 1.5-hour long plays with no intermission. It seems to be a trend with all theaters.”

Trombino-Arthur says she likes the Invisible Theatre over others in the area for the professionalism and quality standards.

“All of the costumes, all of the sets, everything looks very professional. I know that if the play is set in the 1930s everything will be up to that standard. That’s what makes Invisible Theatre so unique.”

The theater has a loyal customer base, which also lends to its success.

“Our audience is a seasoned theater-going crowd. They come here knowing they can trust us,” Blair says. “We make people feel welcome and treat everyone like they’re the most important, because they are. We all feel like one big happy family.”