The Accidental Costume Designer
By: Elsa Ward, USA Local 829
When I came to NYC in 1986, fresh out of graduate school with an MFA from Rutgers University in theatrical design, I was offered my first job in the theater world – costume designer. Although I had been trained in all areas of theatrical design, even working my way through graduate school as technical director of a university theater, I accepted the job and happily worked as a costume designer for 15 years. I had the great fortune to work for many notables, such as John Patrick Shanley and Sam Shepard. I loved every aspect of the theater and the creative backstage world. However, throughout my tenure as a costume designer, I noted that women dominated costume design while men dominated other backstage roles. I eventually left the theater world to pursue television work and other business opportunities, but this observation stayed with me and somehow a seed was planted that someday I might help creative young women discover the vast array of opportunities within the careers of backstage theater.
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