Anne Fox came for her clothes. Liz Shuler came to decorate her new house. And Mark Borden came to shop for Halloween. All three swung by the annual Studio Theatre's garage sale on Saturday, looking for bargains on old costumes, set pieces and props. "I'm trying to buy my clothes back," said Fox, owner of Meeps & Aunt Neensie's, the Adams-Morgan vintage clothing store. "They're always coming into my store--I figured I'd come to their sale."
A stack of Encyclopaedia Britannicas from 1929, a huge, heavy soapstone sink and two tall foam tablets carved to resemble a Manhattan building exterior were among the hundreds of items on the block. All three sold for the asking price ($25, $175 and $25, respectively) or more. A silent auction took place for the hottest items, three handmade Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired desks from last season's "The Desk Set." The best one sold for $300.
One regular customer at the garage sale, Library of Congress researcher Paul Dwyer, said he couldn't be happier about his purchase of the foam tablets, which barely fit into his van. He plans to use them as window dressing in the Cape Charles Trading Company, a theater odds-and-ends store he owns on Virginia's Eastern Shore. "In another life I would have liked to make props for Broadway shows," he said.
In the Studio's lobby at 14th and P streets NW, a group of recent high school graduates from Bethesda spent most of the morning sizing up the most unmarketable item for sale, the silver-painted, wooden nine-foot-tall "Emmerac" computer, an awkward prop covered with dials and buttons from "The Desk Set." They were trying to figure out who would have the largest dorm room next year and how they could lug it home. "It's the only really cool thing I've seen here except the orange velvet chair," said Meredith Durkin, who tried and failed to negotiate for the chair. It went instead to Liz Howard, a recent college graduate who started working at Studio's box office about a month ago. She paid $45. "One of the springs is a little off but my boyfriend is a fix-it kind of guy," she said, pleased with her new piece of furniture. "I got a job and a chair. My life is complete."
The garage sale started 20 years ago as a way to make a little money and clear out a lot of room for next year's productions. "We can't keep it all. Space is valuable," said Artistic Director Joy Zinoman, who founded the theater in 1978. "Theater is temporal and not made to last. This marks the end of the season." Zinoman herself, however, keeps a memento from every play she directs. "I have a little shrine at home. I think most people in the theater do," she said. Most unsold items were donated to local thrift shops. The sale netted more than $4,000.
"The amount of work we put into it versus the money we get for it is not equal," said Kieran Kelly, the theater's technical director and the man responsible for making most of the sets, many parts of which were on sale. "You kind of have to learn to let go, otherwise you go crazy," he said as he watched someone bundle one of his handcrafted tables into a car.
Studio Theatre employees do not have advance buying privileges, said Zinoman, who added she had received numerous notes about the desirability of several set pieces. But since everyone on staff volunteers at least four hours of time to work at the sale, there's plenty of opportunity for shopping.
"I've tried to resist over the last few years," said Carol Arthur, Studio's business manager, who was eyeing one of the handmade desks. But "I live in a group house and that little desk is the perfect size." A round Maxfield Parrish reproduction, another "Desk Set" prop, also tempted many Studio folks. "I'm a huge fan," said Elizabeth Andrews, who works in the theater's acting school. "I think the sad ending is that I'm not going to get it."
First-time sale-goer and Studio Theatre subscriber Bunnie Bryce said she plans to watch next year's shows with a consumer's eye in the hopes that "something that captures you will come up for sale." Bryce bought a beautiful wood trunk--donated by a board member, not part of any previous show--on Saturday.
Most of the crowd did not have to travel as long as teenagers Laurel Terry-Milburn, 17, and Lynnis Powell, 16, who came with one of their mothers from southern Prince George's County. It took the trio about an hour to find the garage sale. The teenagers wound up buying clothes although they were a little disappointed with the selection. "I was hoping they'd be from longer ago," said Powell. "I was hoping to find more special-occasion-wear."
Jim Peterson was one of the luckiest shoppers. He moseyed over from his house across the street and paid $5 for a working computer monitor, one of many the theater put up for sale after upgrading its office equipment. Last year he bought a laser printer for $30. "I told them I can't work today, I've got to go to the Studio Theatre garage sale," said Peterson, a cherubic waiter at the Union Station restaurant America. "I think I'm done for the day, but it was worth it."
CAPTION: Bunnie Bryce and John Lilly examine their "find"--an antique trunk--during Studio Theatre's garage sale on Saturday.