By Janet Dodrill
After the death of my mother, the late Cleveland actress Marji Dodrill, we came across one of her costumes while cleaning out the family house. A beautiful purplish-blue gown with hand-sewn beads. I called Cleveland’s Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) museum to see if they would like it for their permanent costume collection. Danielle Peck at the museum informed me that they, unfortunately, already had 18,000 articles of clothing in their collection! However, when I mentioned that the dress was worn in Follies, a play celebrating nearby Cleveland Heights’s 50th anniversary of Cain Park, and was designed and made by local fashion designer “Denájua,” she showed interest and said yes. They accepted the dress into their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) archives, as Denájua Couturiére is a member of that community. She notably designed and made six costumes for the production of Follies. The show was a Stephen Sondheim musical directed by Victoria Bussert.
The dress is currently on display (and looks gorgeous) in an exhibit titled, The Victory of Self Will Capture the Civil Rights Movement of Northeast Ohio’s LGBT Community, which was constructed in honor of the 9th Gay Games, in Cleveland August 9-16, 2014.
The exhibit sign reads:
Dress, Costume, 1988
Denajua Couturiere, Designer
Gift of Joyce & Janet Dodrill in loving memory of our mother, Marji Dodrill
Blue silk v-neck dress with silver beading worn by Marji Dodrill for her performance as Phyllis Rogers Stone in the August 1988 theatrical production of “Follies” for Cain Park’s 50th Anniversary summer series.
One of Cleveland’s most noted designers, Denajua, is a member of Cleveland’s Transgender community. She has been designing costumes for theater, dance and drama, as well as for individual clients since the 1980s.
According to WRHS, the exhibit will be on display during regular museum hours beginning July 20, 2014 and is anticipated to run through early January 2015. Access to the exhibit is free with the price of general admission to the WRHS History Center: $10 adults, $5 children ages 3-12, and free for WRHS members.