An Inside Look at TheatreWings, with Sayde Handegan

Meet Sayde Handegan: a budding actress, TheatreWings member, and student at Wando High School. We recently sat down with her to offer you a closer look into our TheatreWings program, a free, pre-professional apprentice program for high school students committed to learning the craft of backstage theatre design and management. We also had the joy of watching her perform as “Ladybug” in our summer teen production of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach! Here from Sayde herself:

You just finished performing in our production of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” as Ladybug. How did you prepare for the role? I had a blast playing Ladybug in “James!” The biggest challenge in playing this character was the accent. Naturally, I speak with a standard American accent. and when rehearsals started, I had never performed with a different accent before. My character specifically had a posh British accent, so when I had downtime at rehearsal, I listened to people speaking this specific accent to hear their particular inflections. Eventually, I landed on an interview with Emma Thompson and that was it–her accent was perfect for Ladybug. I watched a ridiculous amount of her interviews to prepare for the role! Physically, the preparation was straightforward, as I didn’t have a very dance heavy track. 

What is your favorite Charleston Stage memory? I have so many wonderful memories with Charleston Stage! I’ve always had a great time working with the company. Four of my favorite memories are being a dresser for the production of Bright Star in season 44, learning stage combat for The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, singing Wicked with Cedar (2nd year Resident Actor) at WingsWeek, and the whole “James” experience.

How are you looking forward to growing as an artist in TheatreWings this year? This year I am a part of the costume design concentration. During the past year I’ve been trying to teach myself to sew and make clothing, so I figured this would be a great way to learn! At the high school I attend, I am the production manager of the school’s theatre program this academic year. My responsibilities include head of stage management, costumes, and props, so to help me succeed more in my job, I decided it would be good to learn the art of designing, making, and maintaining costumes. 

What did you learn in TheatreWings last year that was new to you? Last year I was a part of the stage management concentration, but got assigned to be a dresser for Bright Star. Being in stage management, I had no clue what a dresser did for a show. I learned all about this role’s responsibilities during tech week and ended up being in charge of all the mens costume changes for the show! It’s one of my favorite theatre experiences ever!

What is your favorite show of all time? Another hard question! My favorite show that Charleston Stage has produced is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” My favorite Broadway show is “Finding Neverland”.

Sayde has been working with Charleston Stage since 3rd grade with their classes, Performance Troupe, and High School TheatreWings Program. She is a Junior at Wando High School and production manager of Wando Theatre. Some of her favorite roles include Katie Travis (School of Rock), Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz), Ryan Evans (High School Musical, On Stage!), and a supporting role in PYPO’s Spelling Bee. She’s very excited to play Eurydice in Wando Theatre’s production of Eurydice this Fall. You can find her at and on Instagram at @saydejhandegan

Get to Know Cody Tellis Rutledge, Set Designer for “The Play That Goes Wrong”

We recently sat down with Cody Tellis Rutledge, Charleston Stage’s Resident Scenic Designer and Scenic Charge, to hear about his history with scenic design and the process of conceptualizing, designing, and building the set for The Play That Goes Wrong. It isn’t easy to build a set that’s designed to fall apart and get put back up night after night, and we are indebted to him for his ingenious work for this show! Read through the end to get a sneak peak at the sets for our season opening show.

Share with us your story of getting into set design.

“The painting and design elements have always been in my blood. My mom was an artist and a flower arrangement designer, so when I was little I helped her design and arrange some of her pieces. When I transitioned into theatre, it all came naturally for me. Unfortunately I grew up in a small town, so I had to travel to another county to participate in theatre. 

In Woodbury, TN I found my people and a mentor, Darryl Deason, co-founder of the Arts Center of Cannon County. He cast me in Hairspray and to help paint the set, and when I asked to have a design role he gave me a shot. I’ve come a long way since my pepto bismol pink set design of Legally Blonde! From there I did an internship at Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, TN, where I worked as a scenic painter and an actor. Then I went back to school to pursue my degree in theatre design and hone my skills.”

What do you love about what you do?

“I love creating something from nothing. I say this literally: set ideas start as scratch marks on a paper before they transform into the real thing. To see that come alive as something unique is really special, especially if the audience audibly gasps when they see it. It’s also amazing to me how there are so many ways to do the same show from different perspectives; there is always room to grow and improve.”

What has been exciting about designing The Play That Goes Wrong? What has been a challenge?

“It’s exciting to me that most theatres haven’t done this show yet, so I’ve had to really dive into research to figure out the tricks in the set. In general it’s a challenging show because everything has to go “right” in order to go “wrong,” and one little error can cause so many problems. The challenge is safety-proofing every single thing on the set to protect the actors. Whether that is making sure something doesn’t break, or having multiple versions of something ready to go in case something does actually break when it is not supposed to, we have to be really thorough.”

What do you enjoy about working with Charleston Stage?

“I love the relationships I’ve made in Charleston Stage’s theatre community. I’m able to freely bounce ideas off of my cohorts in the shops, which makes for a really collaborative and enjoyable process. And the relationships aren’t just in our scene shops but also at the Dock Street itself: with our education staff, administrative staff, ushers, volunteers, and other theatre companies in the Charleston community. Everyone wants you to succeed, and I believe that is important in maintaining a healthy and successful design process.”

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

The Play That Goes Wrong is probably the most technically challenging show we have put on Dock Street’s stage! It is by no means easy to design and build. This show would not work without the people behind the scenes putting in 100% to make sure that it runs smoothly and safely. You will see tech crew in the show actively trying to keep everything together! The real heroes are Josh and Adam, my fellow staff members in the scene shop, who have worked beyond my imagination to do things I wasn’t even sure were possible. For that, I’m super grateful.”

Rendering for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.
Rendering for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.
Set model for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.
Set construction and painting at Charleston Stage’s West Ashley scene shop for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.

Cody Tellis Rutledge (he/him/his) is originally from McMinnville, TN and holds a B.F.A. in Theatre with a double emphasis in Musical Theatre and Technical Production from the University of Memphis. This is his 6th season continuing on with Charleston Stage after being a Resident Professional Actor for the 40th Season and is in his 5th year in the Acting Ensemble Company. Some past favorite designs here at Charleston Stage include Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Of Mice and Men, and Number the Stars. You can see more of his design work on his Instagram at @rutledgescenicdesign, where he has designed for professional theatre companies across the U.S.

The Meaning of Live Theatre – Eliza Metts, Marketing Assistant

We recently sat down with Eliza Metts, our new Marketing Assistant, to hear her perspective on the meaning of live theatre in her artistic journey. We are thrilled to share other members’ of the Charleston Stage Company perspective on this topic throughout this season on our blog! Enjoy this first discussion with Eliza.

“Robots will never, ever be able to create art.

This is something I take great comfort in, actually. As jobs held by human beings are replaced with machines and children learn to treat Alexa and Siri like a friend rather than an object, I am easily overwhelmed by the slow takeover of the unnatural over the natural, the screen over the face, the digital over the real.

But then I remember, robots will never, ever be able to create art. They will never be able to have opinions about food, or laugh just because they want to, or have a soul, or enjoy selfless friendship. Robots may be able to make computer-generated digital paintings or recite lines of Shakespeare, but they will never, ever be able to create art, because art can only be created from a human soul, the one special thing that sets us apart from the rest of creation.

No, art belongs to humanity alone. And we, the humans, belong to one another.

Live theatre is a remarkable expression of this truth. The actors belong to one another in telling the human story within each scene, the stage crew and production designers belong to one another in the creation of visual art, the actors and audience members belong to one another in the experience of letting the human story unfold in real time and real space. It isn’t just that there is an excitement and thrill to live theatre that tvs and movie screens will never be able to replicate–it’s that a face is inherently more valuable than a set of pixels and a live voice soaring over a live orchestra is inherently more valuable than even the most updated audio engineering.

I don’t intend to disrespect the art of filmmaking–we as theatre artists are indebted to what film artists can teach us about creatively telling the story of the human experience in new, exciting ways. But even in the past hundred years of film photography soaring to new heights, live theatre has also only soared as well. Even as technology envelopes more of our everyday, we yearn for the face-to-face, for the tangible, for the real.

It takes a human to make art, because art can only be created by a living soul. And so, I look towards our overwhelmingly digitized future with confidence, because I believe in the need for human souls to tell stories to others and trust that we will always find a way to do so, creating art that moves us, makes us think, and leaves us not as we came.”

Eliza Metts is the Marketing Assistant for Charleston Stage. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Theatre and English from Wofford College and is the voice behind the Instagram blog @elizawritesthings. 

Adam Jehle, Set Designer for “Kinky Boots”

Q: Where did you grow up?  Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I grew up in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Growing up, I was very lucky to have a mother that wanted her children to be exposed to the arts. My mother would always take us to art museums, concerts, and I grew up in the small town of Nixa in Missouri. I was introduced to theatre in junior high. It was an elective class we could take and I fell in love with it. I was blown away that you could tell stories for a living and I figured I’d try.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Q: Where did you receive training?  How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

I graduated with a B.F.A. in Design, Technology and Stage Management from Missouri State University. Luckily it was a small school with more personalized training so I got a ton of shop experience and a chance to design Mainstage once a semester. So by the time I was done with undergrad, I had a lot of shows under my belt.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Q: What productions have you previously designed for Charleston Stage this season?

I have done the Projection Design for Murder on the Orient Express and I just closed my Scenic Design for Black Pearl Sings!

Q:  Please discuss your process as the Set Designer for Kinky Boots.

Well luckily I had a clear vision and concept from the Director, Marybeth Clark. We had conversions about how we wanted the show to feel different. We were drawn to the idea of everything being able to change, adapt and allow ease of movement just as the characters do in the show. So once we knew what direction we wanted to go, I researched the time period, the setting and visual world of the show.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for Kinky Boots?

I want people to leave with a little bit of light being shed on a very fun and touching story.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Performances of Kinky Boots continue running April 14th – May 1st at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

Hayley O’Brien, Costume Designer for “Kinky Boots”

Q: Where did you grow up?  Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I grew up in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Growing up, I was very lucky to have a mother that wanted her children to be exposed to the arts. My mother would always take us to art museums, concerts, and every year she would treat us with tickets to at least one or two touring shows at The Broward Center of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. My mother also encouraged me to join Drama Club in middle school as well as Drama class in high school. My sister, Molly, and I would often draw together and talk about fashion which would lead me to costume design.

Q: Where did you receive training?  How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

I received a Bachelor of Arts In Theatre and a Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design at Florida State University. During my undergraduate years, I originally focused on performance but was introduced to costume design and technology that led me to then attend graduate school. Graduate school gave me the opportunity to learn the design and construction process of a production in terms of collaborating with a director and production team, communicating and working with all members of a costume shop, and improving my research and rendering skills. Graduate school also helped further my skills as a well-rounded costume technician.

Q: What productions have you previously costume designed for Charleston Stage this season?

This season, I was the costume designer for Blithe Spirit and Junie B. Jones Is Not A Crook.

Q:  Please discuss your process as the Costume Designer for Kinky Boots.

As the costume designer for Kinky Boots, I collaborated and communicated a lot with the director, Marybeth Clark. After hearing Marybeth’s concept for the production, we agreed to approach Kinky Boots with new and creative ideas. During my research process, I wanted there to be moments within the show that reference the iconic designs by Gregg Barnes while also introducing something new. And of course, I had to think about the most important thing…boots! 

When designing a costume-heavy show like Kinky Boots, you have to organize and prepare as much as possible. Therefore, I knew I had to start the rendering process and swatch for fabric as soon as I could. In fact, the costumes we are building for the show were primarily influenced by the fabric I wanted to incorporate into the show. With the fast-paced nature and the cast size of Kinky Boots, I also had to consider quick changes and how the costumes flow throughout the show. 

Featured: Renderings of The Angels in Kinky Boots by Hayley O’Brien.

Once the designs were finalized, we really hit the ground running. At first, I primarily focused on the characters that were going to be more involved such as Lola and the Angels. I am a huge fan of drag culture so I knew I had to consider all the elements such as padding, tights, heels, wigs, etc. After all, it can be a lot of work dressing six drag queens! Once we got the ball rolling, I was able to shift my focus to the characters that work in the factory. Just like Lola and the Angels, the factory workers have their own individual personalities and styles. I wanted to reflect that with color palettes and silhouettes, keeping in mind what each character does while working at the factory. Overall, it is a balancing act between Lola’s world and Charlie’s world. 

Since the plot of Kinky Boots obviously focuses on high heeled boots, I knew I had to have a plan. First and foremost, I prioritized the safety of the actors in terms of picking what heels or boots to put them in. In terms of the boots themselves, it was important to me that each of the “finale” boots have a specific design to them that correlates to the Angel wearing them. Since we do not have the luxury of making the boots ourselves, there are a few tricks we have to transform them into Lola’s “Kinky Boots”. 

Featured: (left to right) Charleston Stage Resident Actors K’nique Eichelberger as Lola and Drew H. Wells as Charlie in Kinky Boots.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for Kinky Boots?

I am most excited for the audience to see some of the new designs for Lola and the Angels. I wanted the Angels to be individualistic and represent different styles/personas of drag culture so I think the audience will have fun seeing the variety among them. There are also some exciting surprises within the costumes that I hope the audience will enjoy!

Featured: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Jerquintez A. Gipson as Lola in Kinky Boots.

Performances of Kinky Boots run April 6th – May 1st at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

Henry Clay Middleton, Director of “Black Pearl Sings!”

Q: What lead you to your passion in the arts?

I fell in love with the stage when I saw Annie Get Your Gun as a young third grader. I was swept away by the lead actress’s expressive face which I can still see to this day. My parents also introduced me to music and I played the trumpet for many years. During Easter celebrations at church, I always had the longest Easter speech and would also entertain my grandparents with impressions of our pastor’s sermons at dinner after church. I fondly remember the laughter of my family and their guests.

Q: You are directing Black Pearl Sings!. How has this experience been for you?

It’s great working with Charleston Stage. I had a clear vision for this show from the first moment I read it. It’s been exciting to see the actresses bring that vision to life.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take with them after seeing this production?

I want the audience to leave the theater swept up in the twists and turns in this slice of life experience. Who hasn’t striven to get what they wanted but ended up at an unexpected destination.

Q: You are a member of Charleston Stage’s Board of Trustees. How has this involvement fueled your passion for theatre in Charleston?

Charleston Stage has made a commitment to be more inclusive. Theatre should be a reflection of the community it serves. People will relate and support productions when they see people that look like them on stage. Because of this, I was excited to join the Board of Trustees this season.

Q: You are also an actor with Charleston Stage. What has been your most favorite role on the Dock Street Theatre stage?

My favorite role was portraying the icon Thurgood Marshall in The Seat of Justice, when Charleston Stage produced the play in 2016.

Performances of Black Pearl Sings! run March 11th – 27th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

Katelyn Crall, Starring as Susannah in “Black Pearl Sings!”

Q: Where are you from and where did you receive your training in theatre?

I am from a small town a little south of Saratoga, New York. I was very lucky to begin an informal training in theatre in my childhood home watching TCM with my grandmother and going to Shakespeare plays with my father every summer. I received my B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia in 2019.

Q: Katelyn, you’re a returning Resident Actor this season!  What have you been most excited about with joining Charleston Stage for a second year? 

Coming back to Charleston Stage, especially after the shutdown, feels like coming home. This theatre company and community is so special and being able to come back as a second year Resident Actor is an absolute privilege. Being a part of shows like Black Pearl Sings! and Bright Star, where I was pushed artistically is something I was (and still am) excited for. One of the most rewarding parts of coming back has been working with our new CityStage program. Myself and the other Resident Actors have been teaching theatre in schools we may have otherwise never been able to go to. We’ve been able to tour Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook (which was also my directorial debut) and seeing the response from the kids has been the greatest reward. 

Q: You are playing the role of Susannah in Black Pearl Sings!  How has this experience been for you with preparing for this role?

Black Pearl Sings! is unlike any other show I have ever worked on. It has been such an intimate and invigorating process. In most rehearsals there have been less than 5 people in the room, where the last show I was in there were 50. Being in a full-length show with just one other actor is an intimidating prospect- it’s a lot of lines to memorize! But I have been so lucky to work with wonderful and encouraging artists in every aspect on stage and off. (and I got to learn how to play the autoharp which was really fun!!!)

Q: What qualities of Susannah do you most connect with?

I think Susannah is a very complicated person. She is guarded, driven, passionate and quick to anger. But in playing her I’ve found she is also self-conscious, has a very tender soul and is guarding more than her own fair share of secrets. I connect with her love of music and probably every other aspect of her in different ways on different days. She has blind spots, especially with Pearl and on things she’s not an “expert” in, and I know I do and probably always will too. But at her heart I think she is a very hurt woman trying to find her way in a world and time that was not made for her. 

Q: Why do you think Black Pearl Sings! is relevant for audiences today?

How often do you get to see a play or really any form of entertainment focusing exclusively on two strong women? And they’re not fighting over a man! There are an infinite amount of lessons to be taken from Black Pearl Sings! and even though it takes place about 90 years ago, we can still see these characters today. These fights over heritage and ownership are still happening and are incredibly valid. In every show I am a part of I hope the audiences will implement that very old Shakespearean quote and hold the mirror up as twere nature. In layman’s terms: I hope they see themselves on stage. Maybe in Pearl or Susannah or just in the struggle of fighting for your family or their independence. I hope they leave the theatre full of music and maybe singing a song or two. 

Performances of Black Pearl Sings! run March 9th – 27th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

Meet Kimberly Powers, Guest Scenic Designer of “Bright Star”

Featured: Kimberly Powers

Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. As a kid, I would play Barbies with my sisters, and I would do their hair, make up their “houses,” and give each of the dolls a background story…and then I would quit. I found that setting up the story was far more interesting than living in the story itself. I drew pictures a lot as a child, wrote a play, and designed the scenery on sheets in my grandparents’ backyard, etc. When I got to high school, I participated in activities like Odyssey of the Mind – again, designing scenery and costumes for our performance/problem solving session. I also got into theatre in my sophomore year, where I helped with set construction. In fact, until I took a set design class in college, I thought that the set designer was just the high school art teacher – not an actual profession where people paid you money to draw pictures!

Q: Where did you receive training? How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?
A tiny liberal arts school in Ohio named Ashland University, where I received my B.A. My M.F.A. was earned at Kent State University, also in Ohio. I have also worked under and with amazing designers, prop artisans, and scenic artists at some pretty incredible theatres. These people believed in and invested in me, and I try to pass that on to younger artists and designers where I can. For what it’s worth, I still feel as if I am in training. There is always more to learn and ways to grow, and every person I work with helps me develop as an artist and a human just a little bit more. I am grateful for everything I have been taught in school, on the job, and in life.

Q: What productions did you previously set design for Charleston Stage?

I was the guest scenic designer for Mamma Mia! and, most recently, Elf The Musical.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for Bright Star?

I think, if our plans work, the scenery, costumes, and lighting (along with the music, of course) will coalesce to allow the audience to just really immerse themselves in the story and enjoy an evening of beautiful theatre.

Q:  Tell us a little more about yourself.  

I live in Fayetteville, AR, with my husband and (almost) 6 year old son. I was designing 12-14 shows a year before Covid. The pandemic pushed me toward doing more fine art, volunteering in my community and, like many parents, becoming a home school teacher. I have a few design jobs right now and am keeping my fingers crossed that they are still going to be able to happen. I hope that the industry I love can bounce back quickly with everyone’s help – by getting vaccinated! My work can be viewed on my website at  

Bright Star performance run September 11th – 26th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

Meet Sam Henderson, Resident Music Director and Director of Music Education

Featured: Sam Henderson

Q:  What is your full-time position with Charleston Stage?

I am in my tenth season as the Resident Music Director and Director of Music Education here at Charleston Stage. My duties with that position are to oversee all musical aspects of our productions and classes including:  preparing casts vocally, preparing and conducting our live orchestras for the MainStage musicals, accompanying rehearsals and performances on piano, teaching or overseeing music teaching in our TheatreSchool and Troupe classes and camps, and providing vocal coaching to our Resident Actors and students. I also typically direct at least one show per season as well as our 6th-12th grade SummerStage show each July.

Q:  You are the Music Director for Bright Star. What makes the score for this production so unique? 

The score for Bright Star is very different than anything I’ve ever done in musical theatre. Bluegrass music is something I’ve long been a big fan of, but I’ve not had the opportunity to work on anything bluegrass in the past. This style of music brings a few new and exciting challenges. Vocally, the style is quite different from contemporary shows (Footloose, etc.) that mostly lean towards a pop-rock vocal style or the classics that lean more towards a classical singing style. Also, this show calls for instruments that I rarely get the opportunity to work with (banjo, mandolin, accordion, etc.) and therefore I’m working with a few musicians that I’ve never worked with before. It’ll be great fun for us all to get together and bring all of our different experiences and skill sets together to pull off this BEAUTIFUL score.

Q:  How many band members are in the orchestra and what instruments will audiences expect to hear throughout the score? 

We have 9 players in the band, including myself on piano and melodica (which is a new instrument to me), my assistant conductor also playing keyboard and accordion (he also had to learn this for the show!), and a full bluegrass band with:  banjo, mandolin, multiple guitars, fiddle, bass, percussion (including actual bones and spoons!) and even a cello thrown in there for some of the more lyrical moments. The score is really the heart and soul of this show, and we couldn’t imagine even attempting it without the authentic sounds of these instruments for which it was written. In addition to hearing these brilliant sounds, audiences will be able to see all the action with all 9 band members on stage for the whole show.  Julian and I felt very strongly that this was important because of the huge role the score plays in the show, but also because bluegrass is a largely visual musical style.  Seeing the energy and excitement that goes into making this music come alive is just as important as hearing it.

Q:  How has the process been with the cast and learning this music? 

Working with this cast on the music for this show has been a dream. It is one of the most capable and professional casts we’ve had from top to bottom. The leads will blow you away with their singing, but you’ll notice the ensemble (either on stage or off) in almost every song. They provide the texture and support vocally that will leave you with chill bumps throughout the show.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will take away from Bright Star?

The thing that excites me most for audiences to take away from this show (in addition, obviously, to the gorgeous score and wonderful story telling) is the appreciation for a new, original show. So much of what is coming off of Broadway now is just adaptations of popular movies, etc.  It’s so nice to get to present a piece that is a new story with new characters and new songs that people don’t already know or have preconceived notions of.

Bright Star performance run September 11th – 26th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

Meet Julie Duvall, Guest Costume Designer of “Our Town”

Featured: Costume Designer Julie Duvall.

Q: Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing something artistic or creative. I’ve always liked doing arts and crafts in school or at home. I spent hours drawing my own version of anime. I loved to dance, sing and listen to music. I played clarinet and saxophone in middle school and high school. An introduction to theatre class in college turned me on to theatre, which tied all my interests together.

Q: Where did you receive training?

I earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of South Florida in Theatre Design and Technology. I studied set, costume, and lighting design. I earned my Masters in Fine Arts degree at the University of Missouri, Kansas City in Costume Design and Technology.

Q: What other companies have you most recently designed for?

Most recently, I worked with Pure Theatre on an interactive production of Oscelola’s Muse. I took a break from theatre design to raise my two daughters, Ava (13) and Anna (11). Before, I was the head of the Costume Design Program at the College of Charleston for five years.

Featured: Costume Rendering of Emily by Julie Duvall.

Featured (from left to right): Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Mary Kate Foley as Emily Webb and Charleston Stage Acting Ensemble Member David Loar as Editor Webb in “Our Town”.

Q: Please discuss your process as the Costume Designer for Our Town.

First, I read the script to get a general feel of what the play is about and how it made me feel. Then, I analyzed the script for all costume information. I noted the year it took place (1901, 1904, 1913), the setting (Grover Corners, New Hampshire), the time of year (spring and summer), the time of day, the weather, the occasion, and the style the show was written (minimalistic, theatrical–set on a stage). I then studied what is said about each character by other characters, what a character says about (him/her)self, and what is noted in the stage directions. I looked at the occupation, age, gender, lifestyle, and class of each character. I also tracked characters entrances and exits to plan out costume changes (stage managers provided some of this information). Once this was done, I met with the director, Marybeth Clark, and the design team and, together, came up with a concept or approach on how the overall production would look. We decided to keep the production in the era it was set, and keep the Stage Manager character in the same era as the play. We talked about how the costumes were to be the focal point of the show because of the sparse scenic elements. We chose to minimize the number of costumes for each character in order to keep with the abstract nature of the set design and echo the hazy nature of memory. I tried to keep characters in simple, unpretentious clothing of the middle class, but visually stimulating for the audience. Marybeth wanted a color pallet based on a drop Julian Wiles designed for the show. The colors are bright, saturated, and lively, which reflects the joys and simple beauty of daily life. This led me to choose costumes that were a bit more colorful than was usual back in the Edwardian period (tan, navy, & black). In contrast, Act III is in somber black for the funeral. I researched 1901-1913 fashion, life, and professions in books and on-line—Pinterest was my favorite source. Finally, I pulled as many costumes I could from Charleston Stage’s costume stock. I redesigned most of the women’s gowns to give them the line and details common in early 1900’s. We ordered corsets to help maintain the proper silhouette and physical movement of the era. I designed a few original pieces: Emily’s first act look, Rebecca’s “gingham dress,” and Mrs. Webb’s ensemble.

Featured: Costume Rendering of Rebecca by Julie Duvall.

Featured (from left to right): Charleston Stage Performance Troupe Member Katie Blumetti as Rebecca Gibbs and Charleston Stage Professional Resident Actor Anthony Lazzaro as George Gibbs in “Our Town”.

Q: What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for Our Town?

I hope some of the trimming details will be fun to see, but I hope nothing stands out as a distraction. I aim to always serve the play and it’s own idea of “truth.”

Q: Tell us a little more about yourself.

I absolutely love spending quality time with my wonderful and talented husband, Frank Duvall and our two daughters, Ava and Anna. When I’m not designing costumes, I teach. I taught sewing, rendering, pattern drafting, and fashion history at the Art Institute of Charleston for five years, before it closed. Now, I substitute for mainly middle school and high school classes on James Island. I like to paint, knit, shop, read and sew quilts in my free time. I also try to find time to take long walks at James Island County Park.

Performances of Our Town run February 5 – 23 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.