Local theater’s costume department shifts gears to make face masks for hospitals

ATLANTA — Hospitals in metro Atlanta and from coast to coast are dealing with a shortage of surgical masks and gowns as the number of coronavirus patients grows.

Now, the artists who work in the costume shop at a Midtown Atlanta theater are working to help meet the important need.

Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen talked with employees at the Alliance Theatre about how they’ve turned to making masks.

The entire staff is now working from home, and they will sew as many masks as they can. The theater said Emory Healthcare has been happy to accept them and other local hospitals are expected to follow.

“We have 45 people in our production staff,” Mike Schleifer said. “We love making theater, but sometimes, there is a bigger calling. And that calling is right now.”

Schliefer told Petersen via FaceTime that the costume shop’s artists will make face masks and gowns for local hospitals. What’s known as the N95 respirator is in very short supply.

"These N95 masks are pretty regulated," Schleifer said. "We are not qualified to make those, but what we are qualified to make are fabric masks that go over the N95 and dramatically improves the lifespan of the N95 mask."

Everyone at the theater is longing for a time when they are back on stage, but until then, they are doing what they can.

“I’m always proud of working at the Alliance Theatre, but I’ve never been more proud than I am right now,” Schliefer said. “This is truly a war effort. I’m so glad and grateful to our staff that are so willing to jump in at a moment’s notice.”

The Alliance Theatre has also launched a variety of digital resources for families and teachers to help with learning and provide entertainment for people who are stuck at home. They include virtual classes for instruction in the arts and the theater is also streaming its most recent production.