Vern Hagglund’s involvement in Act 1 Theatre in Sumner has produced more than just community acting opportunities. He’s the go-to costume designer for Act 1’s Viking-esque Rhubarbarians.
“It helps me vent up some of my frustrations,” Hagglund said. “Just to create.”
Hagglund makes most of his own accessories and garments when he assembles a costume, and he’s constantly improving and updating his looks.
“My wife keeps telling me to leave well enough alone,” Hagglund said. “My typical response is, ‘If it was well enough, I wouldn’t have to mess with it.’ ”
Hagglund finds nearly all of his materials from local thrift stores and adapts them to fit each part. His costume has evolved from a large faux fur blanket to include women’s leather jackets sans sleeves.
Embellishments and alterations are all part of making each outfit unique — and loud. Hagglund said there isn’t a straightforward plan when he’s creating.
“I get a wild hair,” he said. “I’m always messing with things and fiddling.”
Going to a thrift store has been a running activity for the Sumner man. As a child, a large percentage of his clothes came from thrift shops. He often used to go with his mother on those trips.
“It’s interesting to see the stuff people get rid of,” Hagglund said. “We were part of the reduce-reuse-recycle (movement) long before it ever became a buzzword.”
Vikings have long been an interest for Hagglund because of his Scandinavian heritage. He said the costumes aren’t historically accurate and probably never will be. He and his daughter, Sierra, often research together with all of the Viking books they’ve acquired throughout the years.
The Rhubarbarians will celebrate their two-year anniversary this fall. They were created through a collaboration with Petra Karr at Act 1 Theatre and board member Gene Achziger.
“We wanted to come up with something that would be a lasting rhubarb tradition,” Karr said.
The group supports the community with fundraisers, military appreciation events and other gatherings. It currently has a plan with the Sumner Food Bank in the works. The Rhubarbarians would work with the organization to collect donations at local stores.
“I’m trying to get in to do at least one a month at different stores in the Sumner area to get donations for the community,” said Bill “Tiny” Bracken, a Rhubarbarian.
Getting children excited is another large part of the Rhubarbarians’ agenda. In the coming months, the group plans to experiment with some wooden nickels that are stamped with each character of the Rhubarbarians. Karr said there will be more choreography in the future, and they hope to create a children’s storybook.
“It organically has an energy all on its own,” Karr said.
Hagglund became a part of Act 1 Theatre before the Rhubarbarians were a thought. He plans to maintain his presence as a Rhubarbarian.
“I enjoy it. It’s recreation,” Hagglund said. “I plan on doing it as long as I can.”Elsy Pawelak is a freelance reporter for the Herald.