My general teaching philosophy
I am committed to preparing students for the professional theater and film markets. To develop flexibility and collaboration skills I recruit students who are interested in more than one area of design or technology. To develop survival skills for the field I feel graduate training must include a strong foundation in design and technical skills to prepare students for the Broadway, off Broadway, feature film, and regional theater markets. I feel a theater school needs to combine good training with professional opportunities and we make a point of providing a variety of job placement and study opportunities in America and Europe. By grooming students for the professional market from their entry into the program we are able to get students routinely placed in high-quality professional theaters including: the Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Shakespeare Theater, Arena Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, Berkshire Theater, Washington Opera, L.A. Opera, The Williamstown Theater Festival, and the Actor’s Theater of Louisville.
At OU we have developed our design and technology programs to give students options to specialize in any of the following areas: scenography (dual or triple areas of design), costume design for film and theater, costume technology, costume crafts, set design, tech direction, props technology, lighting design, and sound design. Each program requires an internship with a professional theater company, work on a “thesis production”, and the creation of an “exit portfolio” (a well-rounded portfolio showing an in-depth variety of both produced and project work that is tailored to professional interviews). Our standard MFA programs entail 3 years of training, but there are “compressed programs” available for especially advanced students and “extended programs” available for students who wish to do professional internships in dual or triple areas.
Our mainstage productions are staffed and built to meet regional theater standards so that our students will understand the industry’s design and construction standards and will develop professional portfolios. My design exit portfolio requirements are based on the United Scenic Artists and the film Costume Designers Guild union exam standards. Technical exit portfolio standards are based on major New York and Hollywood studio standards. My graduates are working on Broadway, in the LA film market and in regional theaters across the country. Our best design students attend the National Portfolio Review sponsored by Ming Cho Lee and the USITT Young Designers Forum and exhibit work at the Prague Quadrennial International Design Exhibition. My best technical grads have gone on to run the craft departments at the Santa Fe Opera and the Metropolitan Opera and to be assistant shop managers and cutters at regional theaters.
Preparation for the professional market through on and off-campus opportunities
Our goal for all of our students is to create a variety of on campus and off-campus work opportunities that will give students a professionally viable resume and portfolio when they enter the work force. In support of this:
Most design majors get to design at least two mainstages and several lab productions and/or student films. Dual and triple area majors will get at least 3 mainstage productions split between two different areas. Over the course of their training student technologists work as first hands, drapers, craft artisans and crew heads on campus.
As a faculty we help students shape student portfolios and resumes for professional interviews and we require students to attend at least one national conference such as USITT or SETC so that they may participate in portfolio reviews, job interviews, and design competitions or technical showcases.
To develop professional resumes students are urged to work in a variety of professional internships and job placements during our extended winter break (Thanksgiving to Jan. 1), during the summer breaks, and during their third year of study. I custom tailor professional internship placement to suit the strengths and career goals of my individual students. I regularly place design students with William Ivey Long or Marty Pakledinaz but offer film or regional theater alternatives for the non-Broadway bound.
Off campus our students can design for our small summer stock company on Cape Cod, the Monomoy Theater, or for the lab company at the Cincinnati Playhouse, or off-Broadway for the Director’s Company or for the Hart School in Connecticut.
We also offer one quarter student exchange programs with Central St. Martin's School of Design in London and the Arts Institute at Bournemouth and Poole in England.
The Costume Design Program of Study
The first year of the costume program
The first year of training for designers stresses foundation skills and unleashing the imagination. Students take classes in script analysis, costume history, costume design, set design, draping or tailoring, figure drawing and rendering, costume crafts, costume dyeing and painting, and Photoshop. Set and costume design classes collaborate closely on scripts and use guest directors for projects; in the fall and winter design students are encouraged to work with directors on lab productions and on student films and in the spring designers start work on the following year’s mainstage productions. All students develop technical portfolios in tech classes and working on mainstage productions. At the end of the first year of study I ask my students to reaffirm their intention to graduate as a design, technology, craft, or scenography major. Second and third year design and crew assignments, course work and thesis production assignments will all depend on the student’s declaration of a major.
The second year of the program
The second year of training concentrates on developing breadth of technique and exploring different styles of work. Design majors design for the mainstage and explore coursework in film and television design, fantasy and high theatricality including dance and opera design. Required coursework includes courses in lighting, directing, , 20th century costume history, photography for the stage, and history of art or film or dance or theater. Second year programs allow all costume students to pursue elective coursework in design or technical courses, film production, studio art, and other areas of theater design and technology. Students are encouraged to enter work into national convention design and technology showcases.
The third year of the program
The third year of study is individually tailored to prepare the student to enter the professional market in the venue they would most like to pursue. Specialized studies may involve advanced work on theater, opera, dance, or television and film projects. Mainstage assignments, internship opportunities, and advanced design and technology projects are all designed to support the preparation of a portfolio and resume that will appeal to the student’s target market. In this final year of study students work for a quarter as an intern at a high-quality professional design or costume studio, develop work on a large-scale thesis production (as a designer or crew head), and finish the development of their exit portfolio. Many design students work as guest designers off-campus at the Cincinnati Playhouse. In the third year of study students are again strongly encouraged to enter work into national convention showcases and competitions. For designers this includes submission of work for SETC’s design competition, USITT’s Young Designers Forum, and Ming Cho Lee’s National Portfolio Review.
CORE REQUIREMENTS OF THE PROGRAM
OU is on the quarter system with students taking 18 credits each quarter in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Design students take a design class each quarter of their residency and dual design majors may substitute other areas of design for some of the technical classes listed in the Costume Design Studio core below. Over the course of 3 years students generally take 144 to 162 credits. Students may petition for advanced placement on entry into the program.
Academic Studies 12 credits
- Intro to Grad Studies (THAR 500) 4 credits
- History or Dramatic Theory 8 credits
(Theater History, Art History, Film History, Dance
History, or Historical Bases of Design THAR 538 A&B)
Interdisciplinary Studies 22 credits
- Directing (THAR 524) 4 credits
- Set Design (THAR 534) 4 credits
- Costume Design (THAR 532) 4 credits
- Lighting Design (THAR 531A or 631) 4 credits
- Performance Photography (THAR 536K) 2 credits
- Digital Drawing: Photoshop (THAR 536A 4 credits
Applied Studies 30 credits
- Practicum (THAR 535, 635, and film production) 15 credits
- Professional Internship (THAR 733) 15 credits
(The Professional Internship consists of a minimum of 10 weeks of work in a high caliber professional studio in the US or in an International training program or studio. All Internship venues must be approved by the faculty advisor and job performance is evaluated in 2 ways: 1) the studio supervisor will fill out an evaluation form provided by the SOT, and 2) students will document their work at the studio and develop a presentation of that work for the faculty advisor’s review. The program requires one full 10-week internship in the final year of training but we also strongly advise directed elective internships with high-caliber professional companies during the first two years of study.)
Thesis 26 credits
- Exit Portfolio Preparation (THAR 738) 6 credits
- Research Study (THAR 779) 2 credits
- Thesis Production (THAR 735 prep & production) 10 credits
- Advanced studio or internship (THAR 732 & 738) 8 credits
The Costume Design Studio 45 credit core:
- Costume Design (THAR 532, 632, and 638) 12 credits
- Costume History (THAR 538) 8 credits
- Sewing, Draping, & Patterning (THAR 536D, 636D &/or 739) 8 credits
- Costume Crafts (Thar 636C) 4 credits
- Costume Painting & Dyeing (THAR 636P) 4 credits
- Directed Electives 9 credit minimum
(Chosen from: Studio Art, Film Production, Off-campus design, additional
classes in costume crafts or technology, additional interdisciplinary
studies in set or lighting design, directing, or film production)
The Costume Design Thesis includes:
1. Work as the costume designer on a Thesis production or film.
The thesis production assignment is designed to be a culminating test of the artistic and collaborative skills the student has gained as a designer through earlier design assignments on the mainstage, in lab projects and/or student films, and off-campus at different design venues. Your production assignment is made by youradvisor and the work requires developing detailed research and designs for a complex production (including full color sketches and a design bible), purchasing all design materials, and running the costume craft shop for the production.
2. An Exit Portfolio & Exit Interview
The exit portfolio must display the range and depth of your design expertise through a minimum of 6 different design projects that feature a variety of design styles and challenges. At least 1 project must emulate the United Scenic Artist’s design project model which requires well-crafted, swatched designs for an imaginative theoretical design project that addresses the scope and answers the challenges of a complex production approach. The portfolio must also include pages that document the scale and complexity of the thesis production; and at the exit interview the portfolio must be accompanied by the design bible for the thesis production. Portfolio projects and formats must target the professional standards and focus of the area(s) of the entertainment industry the student wishes to enter (e.g. the film or television industry, the Broadway theater market, the international opera or dance market, and/or the regional theater market).
The exit portfolio must also include a secondary area of emphasis displayed in a minimum of 3 major projects that reflect a solid grounding in an additional area of design or technology.