HEAD STRONG

Susan Claassen’s star turn as Hollywod Golden Age designer Edith Head dazzles vintage style fashionistas, as our Lance Avery Morgan learns

By Lance Avery Morgan Photography of Susan Claassen by Tim Fuller

“There were better designers, but none were better diplomats,” shares Susan Claassen of her alter ego, Hollywood’s Golden Age costume designer Edith Head. Claassen, who recently appeared at Austin Cabaret Theatre in her tour de force, A Conversation With Edith Head is a whirlwind of talent. In fact, the star is a bundle of energy. How could she not be to keep up the breakneck pace needed to mount such a roadshow performance?

Stuart Moulton, Claassen’s show host and founder of Austin Cabaret Theatre, had alluded to her vivacity and shares of her performance of Head by sharing, “She’s strong and independent (yet incredibly vulnerable as well). Edith Head was the first businesswoman in a (still) male-driven Hollywood and she could play with the big dogs. A lot of people think that this show would have more appeal to women than to men, but it has been so well-received by both sexes because everyone can relate to that common struggle to get to the top and stay there. She’s really fascinating.”

It turns out that the play is truly a smart vehicle. Confides Claassen, “Over 85 percent of the play is in Edith Head’s own words.” It turns out the actress spent hundreds of hours pouring over Head’s papers, calendars, diaries and mementos at the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Library in Los Angeles to research the role. She wanted to get it right… and she does.

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