Bringing characters to life with a needle and thread

 

The key to the costume shop always rests inside the lock, making the costumes accessible to theatre students late at night. Wardrobe supervisor and first year student Rebecca Gardner admits she has had to pull long hours to get the costumes ready for the Shakespeare drama “As You Like It.”

The fast paced world of theatre isn’t new to Rebecca. She’s been immersed in never-ending piles of buttons and wrapped around spools of cloth since she was 12 years old. Her grandma was a costumer at her local community theatre and encouraged Rebecca to develop the craft. She even helped Rebecca get her first costuming gig designing hats for turn of the century musical “The Music Man.”

“That’s when I started to get really interested in what she was doing,” Gardner said. “That’s when she started to teach me.”

Rebecca didn’t design costumes for her high school drama productions. Instead, she set her sights high and designed the outfits for her local community theatre and the opera department of her local college theatre Northern Illinois. She even freelanced her art for a barbershop quartet, a wedding dress runway show for a local charity, and a production of “The Nutcracker” for a local dance group.

Costuming wasn’t her focus at first. It was her dream to pursue dance. “I was forced to stop dancing and my grandmother who was a costumer said, ‘why don’t you come with me? You liked it the few times you’ve done it’ and I really just kinda developed into it and that’s what became my focus,”’ Gardner said. “I realized that I liked it and that I was really good at it.”

For Rebecca, her favorite part about being a wardrobe supervisor is watching the actors transform into their characters as she helps them get dressed.

“When an actor is learning their part and their getting it, sometimes they don’t feel completely comfortable with it. They really have to become the character and once they put on the full costume or even just one piece, there’s like this light in their eyes and suddenly it’s them,” Gardner said. “They’re that character and when they go on stage they just embody it. By them embodying it, the audience sees that and then the audience is happy.”

With each production, she noticed this conversion and loved being a part of bringing characters to life. “I can spread that happiness just by doing what I like to do, making the clothing,” Gardner said.

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