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Hot garb to garner smiles in Kuwait

OREM — In Kuwait's extreme heat, a full-size fur gorilla costume for the stage probably wouldn't be appreciated.

But furry hands and a gorilla mask could do.

Pirate wench costumes and Indian maiden garb might work as well, along with a couple of Greek god costumes and a Red Riding Hood cape.

That's pretty much what Julie Ingram, Katie Hawker and Anne Swenson decided as they sorted through costumes and accessories to send to the Bravo Company in Iraq.

"We looked for things that could be funny," said Swenson, one of the owners of the Orem Hale Center Theater.

It all started when Swenson started poring through her overloaded mailbox a few weeks ago.

In there, she found a letter from Charles Sparks of the U.S. Navy asking for costumes.

Sparks explained that his unit is responsible for boosting morale while soldiers wait to be shipped home. He said many of the men and women are dealing with mixed emotions and trauma. So a few costumes could really come in handy for skits and shows.

For Swenson, there was never any question whether Hale Center Theater could help.

It was more a question of how much and how soon.

"I was downstairs in the office going through the mail and I came across this weird-looking letter that had an official military postmark," said Swenson. "I open it up and it just says, 'Hi, this is Charles Sparks and we're requesting five to 10 costumes."'

Sparks stressed how important it is to let the soldiers know they matter.

"We have scheduled several parties for the troops and are in desperate need of costumes," he said. "These costumes will allow our unit to give our troops a great time prior to returning home."

Swenson said she didn't want to simply go through the theater's old costumes. She didn't want to give the soldiers rejects and cast-offs.

Instead, she and the costumers at Archive Costumes searched through catalogues and picked out a variety of new pieces that would lend themselves to comedy.

"Funny goes a long way," she said. And they didn't go crass (no open-bottom hospital gowns or bloody, scary outfits), said Swenson.

It took some time and effort at what is a very busy time — Halloween — but Archive Costume manager Ingram said a

total of eight complete costumes were sent out.

"We tried to find things that could be mixed and matched and used in number of ways," Swenson said.

Swenson is a little worried that the packages may miss opening curtain since Spark's letter suggested a Sept. 5 deadline, but she's hoping they'll still come in handy.

In any event, now the Bravo Company is ready for whatever bit of theater comes their way, be it King Kong or Capt. Jack Sparrow.