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Broadway Costume Designers Make PPE While Waiting For The Great White Way's Return

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With Broadway still closed, the theater industry is hanging on by a thread. Thousands of people are out of work.

Despite their struggles, some costume makers are volunteering to help others.

As CBS News' Michael George reported Tuesday, they're the ones who make the costumes that bring your favorite Broadway characters to life. Right now, they're in crisis.

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"It's been super stressful. The most stressful time of my career," said Sarah Timberlake.

Timberlake runs a costume shop in the Garment District. She's worked on some of Broadway's biggest shows, including The Lion King and The Book of Mormon. But with Broadway shut down for more than eight months, and no return in sight, Sarah said she's lost 95% of her business.

"We're bleeding money, and I'm just trying to make sure that my people are able to put food on the table," she said.

While many industries have found some way to continue operating during the lockdowns, live theater just isn't possible.


"We were the first ones to shut down. We'll be the last ones to reopen," said costume maker John Kristiansen.

Kristiansen and his partner started the Costume Industry Coalition to ask for more government aid.

"At this point, we're just racking up debt toward the business expenses we can't get out of during this time," he said.

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Shows won't return to Broadway until at least May 2021. But a group of costume workers decided they can't just sit and wait for the curtains to rise again. On Broadway, the show must go on.

Hundreds of costume makers have turned their skills to making personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. It doesn't pay the bills, but it does help save lives.

"We have to help each other. If I've been able to help someone now, I hope someone will help me in the future," Timberlake said.

For now, these artisans are hanging on by a thread, waiting for the bright lights of Broadway to shine again.

The Broadway industry supports around 96,000 jobs in New York City.


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