Stepping Out

Pear strikes up 'Conversation'


Tim Fuller/Special to the Town Crier
Susan Claassen portrays legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head.

Pear Theatre presents the Bay Area premiere of “A Conversation with Edith Head,” a production scheduled to run Friday through Dec. 16 in Mountain View.

The play stars Susan Claassen, an LA Stage Alliance-nominated actress and New Times winner for Best Actress. Claassen and Paddy Calistro wrote the play, based on the book “Edith Head’s Hollywood.” Calistro co-authored Head’s authorized posthumous autobiography.

It features behind-the-scenes stories about some of Hollywood’s greatest stars and provides an intimate portrait of Head, considered a legendary costume designer. In her six decades of costume design, Head worked on more than 1,000 films, dressed the greatest stars of Hollywood, received 35 Academy Award nominations and won an unprecedented eight Oscars.

Claassen said she was inspired to write and star in “Conversation” while watching a TV biography about Head, who died in 1981 at the age of 83.

“Not only do I bear a striking resemblance to Edith, but we share the same love for clothes and fashion,” Claassen said. “She stitched Dorothy Lamour into her sarong, put Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in kilts in ‘The Road to Bali,’ dressed Ingrid Bergman in ‘Notorious,’ Grace Kelly in ‘To Catch a Thief,’ Kim Novak in ‘Vertigo,’ Gloria Swanson in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and Sean Connery in ‘The Man Who Would Be King.’ There are many myths about her, but she was a discreet, tenacious personality. She knew whose hips needed clever disguising and made sure those legendary stars always looked the part.”

A California native, Head completed her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley and post-graduate studies at Stanford University. Younger generations who may not know her by name are likely familiar with the animated character she inspired – Edna Mode, the superhero costume designer of Pixar’s “The Incredibles” movies.

Bay Area actor and choreographer Michael Saenz will join Claassen on stage in the role of host.

Performances are slated 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. There will also be an 8 p.m. show Sunday, Dec. 9. Thursday’s performance is a preview and Friday is opening night.

The Pear Theatre is located at 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View.

Tickets are $15-$35.

For tickets and more information, call 254-1148 or visit thepear.org.

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