Arts & Culture

Olympia friends plan benefit for local costume designer who needs a kidney transplant

Courtesy of Mishka Navarre

Olympia costume designer Mishka Navarre — whose eye-catching work has been seen on stages in South Sound and beyond — spends 12 hours a week hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine.

She needs a kidney transplant, and friends and colleagues are having a benefit for her Friday night.

Navarre, who owns Costume Atelier Masque & Pettycote on Legion Way and works as a costume designer and instructor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, has a disease called IgA nephropathy, a disease that causes the body to attack the kidneys, presenting no symptoms until the kidneys have all but failed. Scientists don’t know what causes it.

“About a year ago, I got the flu or a bad cold,” Navarre told The Olympian, “and things really went south from there. It’s been a quick decline and then all of the sudden I’m on dialysis.”

Beginning dialysis helped her feel better, but it complicates her life to spend four hours three days a week getting her blood cleaned. Her arms are marked where the needles are inserted into veins

“It sucks, and I hate it, and I want it to be done with it,” she said.

The only way for her to live without dialysis is to get a kidney transplant. She has a potential donor, but even if that person is a perfect match, Navarre faces other challenges.

Though she has insurance through the university, many of the costs of transplant, including living near Virginia Mason in Seattle for eight weeks after the surgery, aren’t covered. That’s why friends are organizing benefits and making donations.

She’s also trying to figure out how to keep the costume shop and studio going. Despite help from fellow designer Diana Purvine, Navarre is concerned that she can’t sustain the shop during the long recovery period.

She hopes to schedule the transplant around the shows she’s designing, although if she has to wait in line for a donor, that won’t be possible.

She’s currently working on designing “The Penelopiad” for UPS and “Hello, Dolly” for The Mountain Play Theater in Mill Valley, Calif.

Her most recent project in Olympia was “The Tempest,” staged last month at Port Plaza. Her work also was showcased in Broadway Olympia’s “Legally Blonde,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Young Frankenstein.”

Since she moved here in 1995 to take a job with Capital Playhouse, she’s done costumes for Harlequin Productions, Olympia Family Theater, Opera Pacifica, Saint Martin’s University and the Broadway Center in Tacoma.

“She’s very knowledgeable,” said Jen Ryle, Olympia Family Theater’s artistic director. “She’s really great at bringing out the character of each person with the costume.”

Navarre found creative ways to costume the actors — all playing animals — for the theater’s 2016 production of “A Year With Frog and Toad,” suggesting warts by sewing buttons all over Toad’s cardigan and outfitting Snail with an antennaed pith helmet and something that resembled a shell.

“It takes imagination,” Ryle told The Olympian. “She made this very ingenious backpack that swirled around. It was subtle.

“She’s worked with us a bunch,” Ryle added. “She’s great.”

“My mother says that I have been a costumer or at least playing dress up since day one,” Navarre said. “She was never surprised that I became a costumer. It’s all the things I really like to do rolled up into one fun package.

“I hadn’t thought about doing costumes until I took an intro to theater class in my freshman year of college, and I was like, ‘Wow! People do this for a living? This is so cool.’”

Friends of Mishka Kidney Transplant Benefit

  • What: This benefit for costume designer Mishka Navarre will feature music by the Andy Omdhal Trio, appetizers, dancing and a silent auction. Navarre has an autoimmune disease called IgA nephropathy, which causes the kidneys to deteriorate. She is on dialysis, hoping for a kidney transplant.
  • When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20
  • Where: Eagles Hall Ballroom, 805 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
  • Tickets: Free, with donations accepted
  • More information: