"My mother always told me, 'You can wear anything you want as long as you can defend it.' Clothes make the woman."
That's Eve Tilley, director of Love, Loss & What I Wore, a story of self-discovery through clothing that opens Thursday at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Tilley, herself known for some expressive fashion choices, directs a five-member cast portraying the stories of more than 20 women and their clothes. In bringing to life the 1995 book written by Ilene Beckerman and adapted for the stage by Delia and Nora Ephron, Tilley hopes the audience walks away realizing the connection they have with what they wear.
Love opens the FAC's Second Stage season and is a staged reading, meaning the five actresses will neither be in costume nor working with a set. Instead, they'll perform monologues surrounded by illustrations of clothes based on the descriptions in Beckerman's pictorial autobiography, which the New York Times Book Review described as being "worthy of a Tiffany box."
Birgitta DePree, co-founder of the Millibo Art Theatre, was originally slated to direct this production. But when FAC artistic director Scott RC Levy found her better suited for the cast, Tilley was called in. The erstwhile Pikes Peak Arts Council leader has not directed a production at the FAC since 1994.
She'll guide an impressive lot: In addition to DePree, the cast includes Amy Brooks, Kelly Cole, Marisa Hebert and Joye Cook-Levy (Levy's wife).
"In the same way that a song in one's ear, or a taste on one's tongue, can evoke a powerful memory," says Brooks, who performed two years ago in the FAC's In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play. "I wager that any woman or man can come up with a clothing story, [or] can associate a particular garment with a memory.
"I hope the audience will leave having been entertained, but also, pondering about how attire — however appalling to the Fashion Police! — helps mark and preserve our memories."