As part of the theatre program at Maryland, all students were required to take classes in both performance and design/production. While I technically had a performance focus, I spent a lot of time in the costume shop, learning and working. I took multiple costume construction classes, worked in the shop to build costumes for theatre, dance and opera productions, and worked backstage on wardrobe crews for several productions. When I moved back to Maryland I even worked for one of my teachers at Wolftrap Opera Company where she was also the shop manager.
While one skill- sewing- is an obvious result of my costume shop and backstage experience, there are many others that aren’t so apparent. Building costumes for productions meant constantly working against a deadline, and working for designers and directors whose requirements were apt to change at least once during the process. By my junior year I was a First Hand, which meant that I was one of the few students who closely assisted the drapers and tailors and instructed other students and Shop Assistants when our teachers were unavailable.
This level of responsibility transferred to my backstage duties as well. I was the wardrobe head on several of Maryland Opera Studio’s and Maryland Theatre Department’s productions. For operas in particular this was a challenge, since the Opera Studio was a graduate program: I was at least five years younger than all of the cast members, making it a bit of a feat for me to assert authority. And I was the authority in the dressing rooms: I was in charge of the student wardrobe crew and provided a liaison between stage management and the performers. It was, above all else, my responsibility to make sure that the performers were onstage on time and looking perfect. Talk about attention to detail under pressure.