Betsy Puckett has been an eclectic stage performer since age 8. Last decade, she gained regional fame as the bawdy belle Augusta Wind — for many the most memorable character on LaZoom Tours’ purple-bus comedy circuit. Nowadays, in addition to being a full-time mom, she emcees local events, writes, acts in commercials and plays, and is a TV spokesperson (her latest project was a film noir-style ad for outdoor awnings). This month, she joins established fashion designers from around the region in presenting a theme dress for Costume Drama, a juried runway show that is Asheville Community Theatre’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
How’d you get into making costumes? Are you self-taught?
Yep. Just me and the Husqvarna [sewing machine] owner’s manual — and the occasional YouTube video. Though I have to give much credit to [LaZoom Tours founder/owner] Jim Lazoun for showing me how to really open my creative eye and see possibilities where many wouldn’t. Like, say, the plumbing section at Lowe’s. … I did some costumes for the LaZoom bus and I’ve also worked with a glorious group of wingnuts for Asheville Mardi Gras. I’ve made dresses for [the fashion show] Condom Couture Asheville. Condoms are the most difficult material I have ever worked with. I put them in a blender this year — not kidding. Didn’t do much. Which is good, considering their intended purpose.
Asheville is sometimes a great big costume party, isn’t it?
Where else does a bus pull up and 40 nuns of all different genders hop off and run around? Tourists don’t know what to think. But part of the glory of being in a creative environment is that there’s an opportunity to bring other people along, which I think is so important and joyous.
You’re an Asheville native and know the scene intimately. How are your creations uniquely about this place?
My nature is Asheville, my nurture is a host of incredibly creative people willing to foster art and creative thinking … which stems from this town’s unique artistic principle of “Why Not?”
Did you participate in Costume Drama in previous years?
Yeah, three years ago my category was Plastic. I made a picnic dress chiefly out of melted sporks. Last year the theme was “trashion,” trash fashion. I stitched 2,000 bottle caps together with fishing line. That took a long time.
And you did all that work as a community volunteer?
What about this year?
I’m in the Light category, and I’m excited. The first thing I think is, I want it to be fun. It’s all about bubbles. I’m trying to come up with a way to make them appear that they are floating … bobbing up and down with different-sized Christmas lights.
That sounds awesome.
Yeah, well, it’s not done yet. I’m still in the stage where the material laughs at you and says: “I don’t think so!”
You have to reconfigure your thoughts.
Talk to enough designers, and you realize that you all ultimately get to the point where you wonder, “What if I set it on fire?”
One of the designers at last year’s Costume Drama made a spectacular headpiece and I asked, “How’d you do that?” She said she set it on fire. I’ve tried it before and it totally helps. I actually melted the sporks the previous year, and melted some of the screen I used with the bottle-cap jumpsuit this past year. … I should note that the fire idea always occurs in the wee hours of the morning.
Costume Drama: A Fashion Show 2018 is a Project Runway-style creation challenge requiring nonconventional materials. This year, 20 designers will compete in four categories: Hardware, Light, Paper, and Revisionist History. $50-$75. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit Asheville Community Theatre (35 E. Walnut St.). The event happens on the main stage Friday, July 6, 7:30 pm. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit ashevilletheatre.org, see the event’s Instagram account (avlcostumedrama) and Facebook page, or call 828-254-1320.