This fall, I had the opportunity to help with the costumes for Schuster Theater’s production of “Crimes of the Heart” by Beth Henley.
As a double major in education and theater, I decided to make sure I spend as much time learning about several aspects of theater because I could always end up teaching them. So far, most of my experiences are in performance (as well as a few I’ve had in directing). At the beginning of the semester, I felt as though I lacked technical theater experience so I decided to help with the costumes for one show and that show ended up being the first of the 2016-2017 season.
My interest in costumes began when I did Saltworks Theater Studio when I was little. My first musical was “Fiddler on the Roof Jr.” when I was about nine years old. As I did shows in the future, I noticed how costumes reflected the era they took place in. For instance, when I did “A Midsummer Nights Dream,” I noticed how my character, Puck, had a playful Peter Pan-like costume.
In the spring of my sophomore year at Gannon, a class titled Principles of Design was offered. Unlike other years, this was the one year the class would be taught by both Schuster Theater technical director Jax Vadney and then Erie Playhouse costume designer Angela Howell. I knew this was a great opportunity to learn more about designing for the theater, so I took the class.
For the class, you had to design the scenery and costumes for a hypothetical show of either Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” or William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I knew I would choose “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” since I was in that show once. However, I wanted to add my own take on the show and portrayed it as a clash between the human world that does not believe in the paranormal and the fairy world . While I made my concept of Shakespeare’s classic comedy my own, I took many influences from the production I was part of.
After taking the class, I wanted to assist one of the Schuster Theater work studies with costume design since I did not know how to sew (I could only come up with concepts), and I wanted to learn more about the process of making and choosing costumes. I ended up working with Cassie Bielecki and helped figure out what alternations needed to be done when the actors tried on their costumes for the first time. Because the play took place in the South during the 1970’s, I learned how hectic it could be to find a costume from a specific region in a specific time period that fits the personality of a certain character and of the actor. It was done, but it was harder than I expected.
My main aspiration as a theater artist is to direct. Because I also am pursuing a degree in education, I want to be able to direct children in theater. But I also want the costumes to not look like the stereotypical tacky school play costumes. I want them to look semi-professional like the ones I wore at Saltworks growing up. My experience as costume assistant for “Crimes of the Heart” gave me some of the tools I will need in the future to be a director.