San Francisco Opera Workers Reach Milestone in PPE Mask Production

With San Francisco’s Opera season on temporary hold for the very first time in its 97 year history — its costume makers have been recast in dramatic fashion — as mask makers.

Since April, more than 20 participants of the opera’s costume crew have been slaving away sewing face coverings which the opera is donating to firefighters, sociable service agencies and front line medical staff.

“We prefer to stay busy,” said Jai Alltizer, the opera’s senior productive supervisor. “Therefore the thought of resting at home sheltering set up doing nothing, is kind of head numbing.”

The costumers have been churning out the masks in their homes, and a good driveway — each sewing about 50 masks weekly. They’ve turned out so many in simple fact, the opera will mark a milestone this week for its mask production.

“On this coming Friday the 31st, we will have made and donated our 10,000th mask,” Alltizer said.

The fabrics found in the masks were actually destined for a more glamorous life as materials in opera productions. But instead they are recast in perhaps a far more obvious role as masks.

Costumer Jersey McDermott, who’s sewing masks in the driveway of her tiny SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA apartment, showed a collection of yellow fabric she was currently transforming into a three layer mask.

“Which means this yellow plaid is from Girls of the Golden West,” McDermott said.

During normal pre-Covid times at the opera, McDermott was responsible for costume accessories like shoes, jewelry and armor. But nowadays she sits in her driveway every day, crafting masks. She migrated her procedure outside because her apartment was too cramped

“It’s fun for me personally since when I sit away here I reach talk to my neighbors,” she said, finding out about from her sewing machine.

The task has enabled the opera to keep its everlasting staff on the payroll as it navigates the murky waters of COVID-19. The arts company is still racking your brains on when it’ll be able to carry interior shows again. For the time being, the opera is posting productions online and hopes to carry outdoor performances eventually once its safe.

“I skip the interface with the singers and the music artists and I definitely skip the creativity of my job,” McDermott said wistfully. “But we’ll be back.”