Industry in Hampton: Tracy Theatre Originals

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Story and Photos by Virginia Hatch

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, September 2, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene ]
Nylon-braid horsehair reinforces the hem of the ruffles on the petticoat which underlies and supports the striped dress whose stripes are perfectly matched at every stripe. The bodidee of the striped dress is reinforced with metal rods to encourage good posture. This dress is designed for "Curtains", the new murder mystery musical to be performed at the University of New Hampshire this Fall.

The towns of Hampton, Newburyport, Seabrook, Exeter, Haverhill, Lynn and Amesbury experienced the opening and closing of several industries. Textile mills couldn't do well here because they required water power to operate. Shoe factories made brief inroads; but, they did not last.

In 1993, one of the shoe factory buildings was repopulated. The old shoe factory building on High Street and the corner of Dearborn Avenue, The Charles E. Greenman Company, became home to Ann Carnaby's Tracy Theatre Originals. Ann said: "I find opening a business a challenge -- a terrific challenge. Part of the clue is in organizing the staff. We have three to six employees.

Tracy Theatre Originals provides show-stopping costume rentals from their studio in Hampton, New Hampshire. Parking is available in the lot at 70 High Street behind the loading docks. A sign at the eastern edge of the parking lot marks a space for Tracy Theatre Originals customers. Stairs are located at the north end of the loading dock.

Asked how she decided on this industry for her life's work, Ann Carnaby replied:

"All I ever wanted to do was make pretty things. I do make the hats. They are my creative pleasure. Knowledge of history is crucial to success in this business, "she said.

Another part is organizing the stuff. We have all the paraphernalia that goes into outfitting a person for a musical, a play or an event in a particular time period. We have to have a great sense of history," said Ann.

"My new feature this fall is going to be inexpensive costume pieces for school-age children. When they have to do a report for school on an important person in history, we can help. In response to a telephone call from a mother, like this one: 'My son just told me he has to be Christopher Columbus at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. What can you do to help me?' will receive a sympathetic ear and a helping hand from Tracy Theatre Originals.

"We don't have a really big profit margin; so, I've learned to do more stuff than I ever wanted to know.." said Ann, who handles the accounting without outside help.

To gain more appreciation for the work of Originals, go to their website:; select Shows on the gold navigation bar; in the middle of the page; press the Black Button to request a show plot of one of the over 150 shows listed or request information and price quotes for costuming a new show and you will receive a PDF file of information, containing how to measure, order form, rental agreement. and terms.

Order details suggest finishing touches available from the retail store at the entrance to the factory/studio. "Details are us," said Ann Carnaby. If no computer is handy, contacting Tracy Theater Originals is as follows: CALL: 800-926-8351, FAX: 603-929-9773 EMAIL: info @ MAIL: Tracy Theatre Originals, 70 High Street, Hampton, NH 03842 HOURS: 9 am - 5 pm EST, Monday - Friday RENTALS: Pickups 1 - 5 pm / Returns 9 - 12 noon Costumes for a new musical, call and discuss your plans.

This fall, Tracy Theatre Originals is building costumes for a new murder mystery musical, "Curtains", which is to be performed at the University of New Hampshire in October by the Theater Department at the Johnson Theater.

When she graduated from New York University, Ann Carnaby received a master of arts degree in Child Psychiatry. "Theatre was always my hobby, my interest, my passion," said Ann Carnaby."I'm much happier figuring out how that dress should be made — constructing, engineering, figuring out, like puzzles. Part of my job is to be on the road to buy fabric, meet with publishers of plays and musicals, and go to performances of Broadway plays and musicals."

The second floor of this factory building, Ann calls "The Big Closet". On bare pipe racks, over 35,000 costumes are at the ready to be chosen for a performance. Included are the Caterpillar with Hookah for "Alice in Wonderland" and Dolly's costume for the opening scene in "Hello, Dolly" made for the Hampton Playhouse. Dresses for the Hot Box girls and the men's suits for "Guys and Dolls" are ready to go. The Cow, The Harp and The Hen for "Into the Woods" and all the enchanted characters for "Beauty and the Beast" as performed at Prescott Park last summer are resting and at the ready.

Guarding all these treasures from her post on the first floor, is Ann's black cat, Becca, about four years old, named after Rebecca Murse in "The Crucible".

Ann said: "I find opening a business a challenge in this economy. a terrific challenge. Part of the clue is in organizing the staff. We have three to six employees.
The first floor of Tracy Theatre Originals contains four sewing machine stations, working inventory and Ann's business office.
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