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Released April 7, 2005

SOUTHERN MISS COSTUMER WEAVES THEATRE, HOLLYWOOD

Hattiesburg– His wardrobe could clothe a medium-sized town. His shoe collection would make Imelda Marcos swoon. And his hat rack - it's a bald haberdasher's dream.

With more than 50,000 garments at his fingertips, Fred Lloyd is the envy of anyone who's ever rummaged through a closet only to exclaim, "I've got nothing to wear."

As the costume shop supervisor for The University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Theatre and Dance, Lloyd gets paid to play dress-up. But keeping people in stitches is no laughing matter. And it's certainly not child's play.

When he's not busy instructing students and costuming theatrical events for the university during the week, he works alongside his wife - costume designer Peggy Stamper -- on Hollywood movies on weekends. Recently, Lloyd finished his fourth film this year, the CBS drama "Locusts," shot in New Orleans.

"Days on the set are very long, between 13-16 hours," says Lloyd, a 17-year veteran of the film industry whose resume contains more than 30 movies as diverse as "Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles II - The Secret of the Ooze" and "Canal St. Brothel."

While keeping actors well suited takes up most of his time, it's a job for which he's suited well. Trained as an actor at the University of North Carolina, Lloyd got into costume design by accident, or providence, depending on how you look at it. After setting off to the Big Apple to make it on Broadway as a thespian, Lloyd got a career-altering call one night.

"It was one of those New York summer nights where it's 95 degrees and you've got no air conditioning. The costume supervisor of the national production of 'The Wiz' called me and said a costume assistant had quit the play, and they wanted to know if I could go on the road with the national production. I said 'yes.' So I worked as an assistant on that for a year," Lloyd says.

With only one costume class from college under his belt - fortunately his grandmother had taught him how to sew as a kid - Lloyd set out across the country and soon earned a union card. From there, he strung together show after show - A Chorus Line, Dream Girls, Barnum, La Cage Aux Folles - before making the jump to TV and film.

It was an easy switch, given his background. "Anyone who works in theatre finds it easier making the transition, especially in wardrobe, because you know how to sew, you know about color theory, alteration, all of that.

"Theatre also tends to make you very organized, which is critical when you're working on a film that's under a tense deadline and a tight budget," Lloyd says.

Each of the last four movies, all shot in New Orleans, had a costume budget of around $20,000. The vast majority of the costumes are purchased from local New Orleans vendors, from Sacks Fifth Avenue to thrift stores. Additional specific costumes are rented from the Los Angeles costume houses.

Beside the obvious, Lloyd's moonlighting in film benefits Southern Miss in another way.

"After a show is completed, the producers have to do something with the costumes and I try to be there with open arms," he says, adding that the film production companies have been most generous with their donations.

For "Locusts", a thriller starring Lucy Lawless that premiers April 24th on CBS, Lloyd assisted his wife in creating a "closet" of clothes for each actor on board a 40-foot tractor trailer. Complete with a washer and dryer, sinks and storage, the rig serves as a costume shop on wheels, housing everything from uniforms for a 4-star general to clothes covered in rubber bugs.

"Basically, inside this trailer, you have everything that touches the human body and then something to maintain it. After each use, it has to be hung and labeled as to what scene it was used in. It 's all very meticulous," Lloyd says.

His work ethic and technical know-how are already paying dividends in the theatre department at Southern Miss. Eric Griffis, a second-year graduate student working on his M.F.A., said it's "fantastic" having a theatrical journeyman like Lloyd spinning both wool and wisdom inside the costume shop.

"He's worked on so many different projects and met so many famous people," Griffis said. "Working with him, you learn there are so many opportunities out there if you're good at what you do and you love doing it."

Which leads to the question: Which does Lloyd prefer, theatre or Hollywood?

"They're both so different," he says, diplomatically. "One a movie, you work real hard with a group of people for about 8-10 weeks, then everyone goes their separate ways. With theatre, you work with a small, intimate group of people on a project for a long time, during which you get to know everyone's strengths, their weaknesses. It's much more like a family," Lloyd says.

Lloyd's experience as a professional costumer and technician for theatre and film is a boon for students working in the costume shop, says Stephen Judd, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

"His presence here is also a tribute to the department and to Larry Mullican, head of the MFA costume program. To have Fred here as a shop supervisor, in which he teaches the craft and implements the designs of faculty and students, enhances our program.

"To have him as a graduate student earning an MFA in design, a program to which he brings his professional experience, an aesthetic sensibility shaped by many years of working with some of the best designers in the business, and an incredible excitement about learning, is something very unique for a program of our size and location," Judd says.

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April 19, 2005 1:05 PM