My senses awaken as I walk along the Players shoreline and fallen leaves crunch under my feet. I witness the changing landscape, where there were dark green leaves I now see trees full of various colors. Reds, oranges, yellows and more hues blend together and paint a picturesque landscape. I stroll the path and I think of how well the diverse colors meld together to create the stunning image.
“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” -William Cullen Bryant
Hints of winter are in the crisp autumn morning air and brings one to reflect on the ever-changing seasons. Company members at the Players are contemplating such things as we try to come to terms with the loss of our beloved friend, Costume Designer Pamela J. Rehberg, whose lovely smile and laughter brightened our days.
Pam was a collaborator on many works at the Players and her energetic spirit will be missed by many. She was a mentor, mother, teacher, friend and respected colleague who was filled with hope, compassion and a deep love and passion for her craft. She saw the best in everyone and her enthusiasm was contagious. Those who have posted tributes on her Facebook page all agree they are better people for her having been be a part of their lives. Everyone at the Players agrees.
Pam was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts for 26 years teaching such courses as draping, patternmaking and costume design in the theater department. She enjoyed working as a costume designer for Milwaukee area theater groups, including In Tandem, First Stage, Chamber, Skylight, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Rep and Door County’s own Peninsula Players. She often said of her time at the Players, “It feeds my soul to be designing in the beautiful north woods.”
Pam celebrated her fifth season at the Players this year with her costume design of our opening production, the world première of Paul Slade Smith’s “A Real Lulu.” A contemporary play, the design and build did not require her patterning skills but her ability to make each character feel they belonged in their wardrobe. Each play she designed had a cohesiveness; the clothing belonged to the time, place and scenery. A resourceful collaborator, Pam worked alongside the directors and actors of each project to bring the characters’ personality to life through their wardrobe choices.
Her design of “Making God Laugh” is a wonderful example of this. Pam designed the wardrobe for a family spanning three decades. Each scene took place on various holidays as siblings gathered from across the miles. The passing of time was evident to audiences by the shifting fashion trends of the early 80s to present day.
Pam’s other designs include the contemporary dress of “The Tin Woman,” the early western ware of “Saloon,” the eclectic mix of the classical musicians of “Opus,” the exotic period costumes of “Murder on the Nile,” the crisp military garments of ”A Few Good Men” and the stunning gowns and wardrobe of Patsy Cline in “Always…Patsy Cline.”
Last weekend friends from Pam’s running club, Team Phoenix, visited the Players and were given a tour of the costume shop by one of her collaborators, Costume Shop Manager Kyle Pingel. Given advance warning of their visit, Kyle was able to pull from storage and display two dresses Pam designed, patterned and built last fall for “Always…Patsy Cline.” Patsy’s black and white cocktail dress was stunningly elegant for her appearance at the top of act two, a concert at the Esquire Ballroom and performances of her classic songs “Sweet Dreams” and “She’s Got You.”
Gasps could be heard in the audience when actress Christine Mild entered to perform “True Love.” The song occurs just after the audience learns of Patsy’s tragic death. Pam designed and crafted a gown she termed “the heavenly dress” just for this moment. Layers of soft-champagne colored tulle and chiffon made Patsy/Christine seemingly float onto the stage. The stage light catching one or more of the hundreds of rhinestones hand applied to the gown as Patsy/Christine swayed, each sparkling and shimmering brightly as Patsy and Pam did in life.
Pam passed away Friday, September 25 at the age of 55. Beloved wife of Randy, mother of Josh (fiancé Kelly), Amanda and Matt Rehberg. Pam was the daughter of the late Gerald and the late June Dew, sister of the late Gary, Terry (Kim), Larry (Deb) and Deryl (Theresa) Dew and daughter-in-law of Lois Rehberg.
The black and white cocktail dress went with Pam’s friends, a donation from the Players family to Pam’s, to be displayed at her memorial service. In lieu of flowers the family requested memorials to the Pamela Rehberg Memorial Fund, which will help support the various organizations in which Pam was involved.
Like those fall leaves, people have many different colors and each person brings a different gift or strength to a project when they come together to collaborate. Pam brought her colors to the Players and they will be missed by all.
Fall is in the air at the Players and the intermission bonfire burns bright as the smell of hot apple cider fills the air. Laughter is heard throughout property as the zany Little Sisters of Hoboken entertain in the musical comedy “Nunsense” through Oct. 18. For tickets or more information contact the Box Office at 920-868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.