West Liberty Grad Sews Up Off-Broadway Job
24-Year-Old Snags Big Break in New York City Designing Show Costumes
Wheeling resident Michael Blatzer, a 2016 graduate of West Liberty University, is living his dream in New York City as one of the costumers for the new play, “Party Face,” starring Academy Award-, Golden Globe- and BAFTA Award-winning actress Hayley Mills, of “Pollyanna” and “The Parent Trap” fame.
“It’s mind blowing, I just turned 24 and I’m making an off-Broadway debut. It’s a little surreal,” said Blatzer, who is from Martinsburg and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater.
Described as a party that’s full of surprises, the “Party Face” plot centers on careful plans that are upended when a young woman’s mother, Carmel (played by Mills), brings her own food to her daughter’s party and also the “right” person to be her daughter’s new best friend. They put on their “party faces” and hope for the best, but when facades crack, secrets spill. Tears sprinkle and laughter roars as their revelry leads to revelations, according to pubicity information about the play.
“I saw the designer run-through, and it’s hysterical,” Blatzer said. He arrived in New York on Dec. 17 and has been working since then to get the contemporary, two-act play ready for opening night, which is Monday, at City Center Stage 2 in the City Center theater district.
He designed costumes for five cast members and one understudy who is on standby for each of the cast members and therefore needs her own costumes for each character. There are no costume changes because it takes place all within an evening, according to Blatzer.
Since the style of dress is contemporary, Blatzer bought and altered all of the costumes for this play, rather than creating them from scratch. He spent lots of time shopping and sewing.
His opinion of Mills is just what her fans would expect: “I talked with Hayley Mills a couple of times and she’s a sweetheart,” he said.
Blatzer first got into costuming under the instruction of Meta Lasch, longtime West Liberty University theater professor who teaches a variety of courses including costuming, makeup, lighting, drafting and stagecraft.
“I got into costuming as soon as I got to WLU. When I toured as a prospective student I came in as biology and theater double major, but I fell in love with the theater department. Things fell into place, I left biology and went completely into theater. Then West Liberty’s Hilltop Players went to the Kennedy Center Festival, and I took a costume design class there. Meta gave me a few projects and I became more and more convinced that this was my future,” he explained.
Blatzer worked on the Hilltop Players productions for four years while earning his degree.
According to Lasch, he was one of her best-ever students. She describes him as highly motivated and determined.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Michael,” she said. “Michael showed that he had something beyond the talent and passion for his craft when he was a summer intern with the Millbrooke Playhouse after his sophomore year. He was one of several interns hired to be stitchers for the summer slate of shows. Before the summer was halfway over he was selected to design costumes for the final production. That led to being contracted to design two shows the following summer, and thus it began. He was on his way to the career that he so wanted. His diligence and determination made the difference.”
“It says a lot about West Liberty University that I’m out just two years, from a small school in West Virginia, and I’m here. If it wasn’t for the education I received there, I wouldn’t have gotten this chance,” he said.
Blatzer also has worked at the Judson Theatre Company in Pinehurst, N.C., where he plans to return.
Written by the Irish playwright Isobel Mahon, “Party Face” began showing in previews Jan. 11 at City Center Stage 2 (131 West 55th St.) and run through April 8. Tickets are available at www.nycitycenter.org.
Blatzer expects to return to Wheeling Tuesday, following the official opening night. Reports are that the play received a standing ovation on its first preview night.