After 30 years, Stratford Festival says farewell to retiring costume warehouse supervisor, Madonna Decker

After 30 years, Stratford Festival says farewell to retiring costume warehouse supervisor, Madonna Decker

You can tell as soon as you meet her that Madonna Decker is a force to be reckoned with. For 30 years, Decker has overseen the Stratford Festival’s warehouse, making sure the theatre festival’s many props and costumes are stored and organized with care and precision. The warehouse is tucked away in a nondescript industrial […]

You can tell as soon as you meet her that Madonna Decker is a force to be reckoned with. For 30 years, Decker has overseen the Stratford Festival’s warehouse, making sure the theatre festival’s many props and costumes are stored and organized with care and precision.

The warehouse is tucked away in a nondescript industrial mall, far away from the pastoral surroundings of the main Festival Theatre, and it’s hard to imagine any item could be found quickly within its cavernous, fluoursecent-lit space.

Madonna Decker (Photo: Facebook)
Madonna Decker (Photo: Facebook)

“It’s all organized,” Decker confirms. “All like-types are together, all divided by era, divided by colour. It’s really a simple system, but if it’s not where it says it’s supposed to be… then it’s not here.”

Decker works year-round to manage the warehouse, with the off-season being when all the cataloging is done.

But now, after so many years, the countdown is on: Decker is retiring next Wednesday.

Looking around at row upon row of shelves filled with everything you can imagine — from carousel horses, suits of armour, top hats, tables and (fake) dead bodies — you can’t help but ask, who could ever take over for her?

“Oh they’ll find someone else,” she tells Popj.ca in her typically modest way.

Within the two levels of the warehouse, the history of the Stratford Festival lives here. and Decker has clearly run a tight ship. Everything is in its right place.

Just one of the many rows of costumes in Stratford Festival's warehouse (Photo: Rob Ballantyne/Popj.ca)
Just one of the many rows of costumes in Stratford Festival’s warehouse (Photo: Rob Ballantyne/Popj.ca)

“It’s the history that I do have in my little brain,” she says. “It’s because you deal with it almost every day.”

“We have about 40,000 costumes here,” adds Ann Swerdfager, publicity director at the Stratford Festival. “It’s one of the three largest costume houses in the world, the largest for a theatre company.”

There is pride on Madonna’s face and in her voice as she tells you about her world-class domain, but a “bring it on” attitude is evident in her stance.

Whatever new adventures await her, Madonna Decker appears ready for them. Whomever assumes her domain will have many, many large shoes to fill.