quick-change artist

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quick-change artist (plural quick-change artists)

  1. An entertainer whose performances involve rapid changes of costume.
    • 1917, H. Rider Haggard, chapter 17, in Finished:
      Only then Nombe must be something of a quick-change artist since but a little while before she was beyond doubt personating the dead Mameena.
    • 1940 May 17, “Thompson And Sarazen Lead”, in Telegraph-Herald, Iowa, USA, retrieved 24 May 2013, page 1:
      [T]he lead can change hands in this tournament faster than a quick-change artist's costume.
    • 2002 July 2, Lawrence Van Gelder, “Theater Review: Tuneful and Faithful to Twain's Tale”, in New York Times, retrieved 24 May 2013:
      Here, too . . . are a kindly priest, a mysterious hermit, a good-hearted mother, a love-smitten young noblewoman, flashing swordplay, and taverns and palaces teeming with cooks and bakers and servants and idlers and criminals, all brought to vivid life by a well-chosen dozen-member cast of quick-change artists.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) Someone who rapidly changes their views, occupations, appearance, behavior, etc.; something that rapidly changes its form or function.
    • 1931 September 17, “The Budget”, in Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, retrieved 24 May 2013, page 9:
      Mr. Churchill, with his well-known ability as a quick-change artist, had become a full-blooded protectionist
    • 1998 August 19, Diana Jean Schemo, “Colombian Rebels Broaden Offensive”, in New York Times, retrieved 24 May 2013:
      The worst part, the refugees say, is maneuvering survival in a war whose combatants are often quick-change artists, looking like a neighbor by day and a killer by night.
    • 2001 June 24, Christine Gorman, “Cover Stories”, in Time:
      Pharmaceutical manufacturers have already been hampered by HIV's talent as a quick-change artist.