Theater labs provide students with useful life skills

Lauren Crist

Jysten West and Brittany Myhal build trees for the set of “Three Sisters” in an Intro to Set Design Lab. Lauren Crist | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

The sound of sewing machines drones on as students hover over them, guiding the needle in a spiral pattern as they learn skills important for theater and everyday life.

Once a week, these theater students attend an Introduction to Costume Lab to learn the basic skills of costume making and design.

“The majority of the students that take these classes are theater majors,” said Sarah Russell, costume designer and technician teaching the Intro to Costume class. “Even if they’re just actors, it’s very important for any sort of theater artist to understand what’s going on in the other parts of theater.”

Introduction to Costume Lab is just one of the several lab classes offered to students that teach hands-on experience in different aspects of theater. Students can also take set design, makeup and lighting.

“I benefit a lot from these classes,” said freshman theater major Kayla McDonald. “Especially from the sewing part because I’m short, and I have to hem all of my pants, and I used to not know how

to sew.”

For those who are not theater majors, these classes help students learn important life skills.

“At first I was nervous and I didn’t even know the difference between a nail and a screw,” said Julie Protich, a sophomore public relations major taking Introduction to Set Design. “But now I feel so handy.”

Understanding different areas of theater also helps actors communicate with costume and set designers, McDonald said.

“You can work a lot easier with the people backstage,” she said. “And you know what you’re talking about when you want something fixed a certain way, or if you want to help out with ideas.”

These skills also help theater students get jobs, Russell said.

“If somebody is casting and they think, ‘Hey this is an actor who can sew,’ there is a better probability that they will get cast,” she said.

Kent’s theater productions also benefit from the lab classes. Currently, students are working on costumes for the School of Theatre and Dance’s production of “Jane Eyre,” opening next semester.

“They are making orphan costumes because we have lots of orphans,” Russell said, “so we figured it would be a good project

for them.”

In Introduction to Set Design Lab, amidst flying sawdust, students don safety goggles and face masks and work with powerful saws and

nail guns.

“I’m afraid of anything mechanical,” said Jysten West, sophomore musical theater major. “But I do really like how they just throw us in there. Everything that I learned from the lab and lecture I used to build the sets for ‘Funnyhouse of a Negro.'”

Students learn more than how to build sets and sew. In makeup labs they learn specific techniques, such as bruises and scars,

transgender, fantasy and period makeup. In costume labs, they are taught how to make period costumes, such as poodle skirts and regency-style dresses.

“These projects look good on their resumes and in portfolios,” Russell said. “They also teach students important things that they need to know for costume design.”

In the Intro to Set Design lab, students are working on the set for the production of “Three Sisters.”

“I didn’t even know that all that work went into building a set,” Protich said.

Students agree that these lab classes provide valuable information that is useful for later in life.

“I’d like to eventually have my own theater,” said Brittany Myhal, freshman musical theater major. “So it’s beneficial to know all the different aspects of it.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Lauren Crist at [email protected].