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Unique costume designs bring college productions to life

Sabrina Notarfrancisco
Sabrina Notarfrancisco

There is more to costume design than meets the eye. Luckily, Sabrina Notarfrancisco, lecturer of theater, has a detailed knowledge of costume history and a knack for design.

When the College's theater department begins preparing for a production, Notarfrancisco discusses ideas with the director and the design team, conducts research and completes a character analysis for each costume.

"The goal of costume design is to reveal the character," Notarfrancisco said. "Some of the student actors do not completely understand their characters until they see their costumes, and the costumes frequently help the student actors analyze their roles."

When the student actors come for their fittings, Notarfrancisco challenges them to think deeply about their roles.

"During these discussions, I encourage the actors' creative process by asking them about their characters," Notarfrancisco said.

Kristin Hutchins '12, who played Sister Mary James in the theater department's fall performance of John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt: A Parable," says she understands the importance of a good costume.

"My nun's habit was complete - the detail unbelievable. I had every element down to the specific number of rosary beads and a golden ring around my finger representing my commitment to God," Hutchins said. "The student actors are extremely lucky to have the opportunity to act in professional-level costumes."

Hutchins has had the opportunity to work closely with Notarfrancisco as a workshop assistant. Along with fellow assistant Alicia Toldi '12, Hutchins helps Notarfrancisco through the entire costume design process and recently had the opportunity to lead the costume crew for the theater department's production of "The Tempest."

"Sabrina's vision was exquisite and complemented the vision of the director," Hutchins said. "Designing for a show like this is certainly a challenge, but it was definitely rewarding to watch the process from conception to performance."

Students in the theater department´s introductory acting and technical theater classes also get hands on experience in costume design. Notarfrancisco works closely with the students, teaching them to think critically about the historical and social context of costumes, as well as how to construct them from start to finish. Each theater major then gets the opportunity to work on the production team for a theater department performance.

Notarfrancisco and her students are currently working on costumes for the theater department's next production, "Rocky Horror Show," March 4-7.

-Caroline Gransee '09

February 12, 2010