As published in the Victoria Advocate

Geraldine Tobola reacts to Matthew Williams, 12, trying on his Simba costume for the first time during a pre-show fitting at the Theatre Victoria costume shop on March 12, 2019, in Victoria, Texas.

Geraldine Tobola reacts to Matthew Williams, 12, trying on his Simba costume for the first time during a pre-show fitting at the Theatre Victoria costume shop on March 12, 2019, in Victoria, Texas.

Surrounded by a sea of elaborate headpieces and colorful fabrics, sits Geraldine Tobola, hard at work crafting costumes for Theatre Victoria’s production of “The Lion King Jr.”

Tobola, a pattern maker of 23 years for Double D Ranchwear in Yoakum, now volunteers as a theater costume designer in her free time.

Tobola’s interest in clothing and design began during childhood while watching her grandmother sew outfits for her and her siblings.

“We could dream up anything, and she would make us exactly what we wanted,” Tobola said about her grandmother.

Tobola later became active in the theater scene, performing in her first play as a senior in high school. Her combined passions for theater and design eventually led her to attend Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, where she performed in numerous plays and musicals and earned a degree in theater costume design.

After a 34-year hiatus from the stage, Tobola returned to the spotlight in February 2018 to make her debut with Theatre Victoria as Eaddy Mae Clayton in “Four Old Broads.”

“I’m just back in love with being on the stage again, and I don’t know why it took me so long to come back,” Tobola said.

After performing with Theatre Victoria, Tobola quickly became involved as a volunteer and assumed the role of costume designer for “The Lion King Jr.” when the show was announced in 2018. The production was on stage from March 28 to 31.

When it comes to inspiration for the costumes, Tobola credits Pinterest as her “Bible,” using the app to compile ideas for each character that she can expand upon and incorporate into her own designs. The costumes are a mix of handmade and store-bought items. Tobola’s favorite costumes are upcycled pieces, hand-painted cardboard fastened to hats and backpacks creating three-dimensional animal forms lightweight enough to be worn by even the smallest cast members.

“It’s a lot of work. I try not to let it be stressful, but I want to do so good that it stresses me out,” Tobola said with a laugh, “I just want the kids to love it as much as I love putting it together for them.”

Geraldine Tobola applies stage makeup to Joel Vogt, 13, Mufasa in Theatre Victoria's The Lion King Jr., backstage at the Leo J. Welder Center in Victoria, Texas, on March 25, 2019.

Geraldine Tobola applies stage makeup to Joel Vogt, 13, Mufasa in Theatre Victoria's The Lion King Jr., backstage at the Leo J. Welder Center in Victoria, Texas, on March 25, 2019.

Costume construction began in January, just three months prior to opening night, keeping Tobola and her small team of volunteers consistently busy. In addition to working her full-time job, Tobola estimated she spent about 20 hours each week preparing for The Lion King Jr., though her husband is certain that number was closer to 30. But to Tobola, all the long hours and late nights were worth it because of the experience it ultimately provided for the community.

“I’ve always loved ‘The Lion King’ and to see the little kids get excited to dress up and have a good time – I just love it,” Tobola said.