[media-credit name=”Kenny Haeffele” align=”alignright” width=”196″][/media-credit]While it is an actor’s job to take the audience to a new world, it is the job of the behind-the-scene teams to create that world and make it believable. One team that operates almost invisibly in the Weber State University Performing Arts Department is its costume crew.
From creating elaborate costumes to picking out jewelry and shoes to adding the finishing touches on makeup, the costume team works to make sure the actors are believable and ready before and during a performance.
“It’s the right artistic outlet for me,” said senior Shelby Page, a theater major with a costume design emphasis. “I was always an OK draftsman at drawing and painting, I was a so-so sculptor, never a dancer, never a singer, never an actor. I was one of the people lucky enough to find out what they are good at and what they have a talent for really early in life and start working towards it.”
Costume design is not just a class students can take, but a direction any theater majors can focus on for their degrees.
“I like the way our department is set up, and I think it’s great, actually,” said Costume Studio manager Jean-Louise England. “This is a really great educational setup. This year we’re deciding the shows for next year. Once we decide which shows those are, we will decide which students are capable and have the prerequisites for designing, and then we’ll pick which students design which shows. Depending on how many students we have, sometimes we’ll bring in a guest designer. It depends. Right now we have so many costume students, so they each get to do a show.”
In order to graduate with a costume design degree, each student heads the costume project for an individual show. Page is heading the “Lucky Stiff” costume project. She has designed and constructed many of the pieces for the show.
“I’ve been here since 2009, so pretty much everything that we’ve done in that time I’ve worked on,” Page said. “This is my first main stage show designing. I designed a one-act a couple of years ago and a couple of dances here. Otherwise, I’ve done set painting and construction, a lot of costume construction and props construction.”
Page said she has loved clothes for as long as she can remember. Before enrolling at WSU, Page had two costume internships, one with the Utah Opera and the other with McGrew Costume Studio. Page said she plans to further her study of costume design after WSU.
“I have my eye on one grad school, and if I don’t get in there, I plan on jumping into film and commercials and working my way up,” Page said. “Otherwise, I would like a master’s in costume design.”
Over the summer, students and faculty members of the costume department had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles to gain experience shopping in outlet fabric stores.
“I’ve done lots of research,” Page said. “Since (‘Lucky Stiff’ is) not period-specific, it’s been a little liberating and also a little terrifying that I have so much to work with, and it’s all about communicating the right message. We did research all through the summer, but we really started when we took our trip in August to LA. The costumers went to LA (for) fabric shopping; we bought some suits there. I’ve been just little by little putting things together while ‘Charm’ was opening and really getting things together.”
After “Lucky Stiff” has wrapped, its costumes, alongside the “Charm” costumes, will be entered into a competition.
“Most of the time we hang on to the costumes,” England said. “We participate in something called the American College Theater Festival, which we hosted last year. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of different schools in our region bring shows and come and participate. This year, both ‘Charm’ and ‘Lucky Stiff’ are entered into that, and in December they’ll pick if they want to invite one of the shows to the regional festival, which is in Los Angeles this year.”
After the festival, the pieces will join the thousands of costumes pieces in the Costume Studio warehouse.