Long days and a passion for theater

This may not be her first retirement, but it is definitely her last, with eight people taking her job once she leaves after working for 15 years.

De Munger, 65, is retiring from her job at the Ensemble Ballet Theatre as the head of the costume department.

Ensemble Ballet is a nonprofit youth dance company based in Maple Valley.

Munger said she did not start out as the costume head, she started out being the stage manager in 2003.

“At that point, they lost their costume head (and) there were not a lot of people who sewed, so I kind of got that one by default,” Munger said.

She said she was exposed to a lot of sewing as a child because her mother and grandmother were both seamstress and she was able to pick up on those skills over the years.

Also, in college she said her roommate was a drama major and Munger said she helped her make costumes.

One of the reasons she got started at the theater, she said, is because of her daughter who she is one of the founding members of this theater.

She said the transition between these two positions was very “organic” and very natural.

With this job came a lot of time and responsibilities.

To start with, she was in charge of storing the costumes, making the costumes, fittings with the dancers, creating new things and so much more.

“During production my job was making sure the environment for the dancers was the best it could be,” Munger said.

The main part of her job, and the part that led to her retirement, was the sewing aspect of it.

She said she was sewing 18-20 hour a day. She was sewing costumes for 60 dancers, 60 child extras and 20 adult extras (with help of five other sewers), while working around 80-90 hours, seven days a week.

According to Munger this is crazy since when the theater first opened they only had nine dancers.

Munger said for the last three years, her and the crew have been trying to transition without her.

She said as the number of dancers grew, the more people came on board to help out.

“Now they are taking a lot of the work I did and restructuring it into different categories,” she said. “(This) allows for one person to do a lot more work.”

With all the responsibilities Munger had to do, her favorite of all was helping the children and working with them.

“Working with the kids, working with the dancers, no question that’s what kept me around so long,” Munger said. “Not the 18 hours of sewing, I don’t like to sew.”

She said some of her favorite moments were backstage when the kids brag about what their parents have done to help with the set.

Munger said without parent volunteers, there would be no sets.

“I love it backstage, my favorite is when kids are bragging about what their parents have done,” she said. “This one little 8-year-old voice in the back pipes up and says ‘my mom painted the back of the piano black’ so that was her brag.”

Another aspect of her job she enjoyed was watching everyone around her grow.

“Watching a young child of 4 who can’t look you in the eye and at 18 stand center stage as the lead role, you know that’s lovely,” she said.

Munger said another key reason she was able to stick around so long is because of the support from her husband. She said he also helped with the sets and even danced in the nutcracker at the EBT.

Even though Munger is retiring, she said until the last piece of clothing from performances is out of her house, she will still try to assist people that may need help.

Looking back, she said the only thing she would change is that she would have said “no” more. She said by saying yes to everything she created more work for herself.

This is her third retirement, so she is not new to this feeling.

Since she is retired (again), Munger said she hopes to spend more time with her family and maybe travel a bit more.

“To me, life is organic, so it’s not like you put a big bookmark, you decide what to do today and then you decide what to do tomorrow,” she said.

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