Upcoming exhibit at Muhlenberg gives patrons behind-the-scene look at costume design process

The Art of Design, Feb. 25 – March 17 showcases professional costume designers and their processes

 Thursday, January 24, 2013 09:58 AM

The costume design process will be on display in The Art of Design, a Muhlenberg College gallery exhibit featuring six acclaimed costume designers.

“It all started as a way to showcase the artistry and process behind what you see on stage,” says Constance Case, one of the featured costume designers and a lecturer in costume design and stage makeup. “This year, we had six accomplished designers, including three Muhlenberg alumni, and I wanted to give the public a chance to see their work.”

Presented in the Galleria of the Baker Center for the Arts, The Art of Design will feature professional designers who are designing for Muhlenberg Theatre and Dance’s current Mainstage season. It will run Feb. 25 – March 17, with an opening reception on Feb. 26 from 5 to 6 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

The exhibit will showcase the entire process, from research, sketches and renderings to finished costumes and production photos, including Tony Award-nominated costumes from the recent Broadway revival of “Hair.” The show will feature a wide variety of genres and artistic styles.

 “The work spans from college designs, to dance, to Broadway,” says Lex Gurst, another designer whose work will be featured in the exhibit. “None of us have worked on the same shows, none of us have the same style. It spans decade of work as well as different genres and perspectives.”

Featured designers include Case, Gurst, Liz Covey, Michael McDonald, Megan Prima and Annie Simon.

Covey has designed for almost every major regional theater in the country, as well as nine Muhlenberg productions. She has also co-authored two books on theatrical costume and has served on the faculty at Barnard College/Columbia University, Marymount Manhattan College, and Bennington College.

McDonald has designed over 30 productions for Muhlenberg since he was a student at the College. He was recently nominated for a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Hewes Award for his work on the 2009 Broadway revival of “Hair.”

Prima will design the costumes for the Muhlenberg Mainstage productions “Iphigenia and Other Daughters” and “Mental Landscapes” in March. After graduating from Muhlenberg in 2007, Prima she went on to receive her Master of Fine Arts degree from California State University in Long Beach.

Simon graduated from Muhlenberg in 2005 and received her Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. She design costumes for theater, dance and film, mostly in New York City, and she is currently the costume designer for Muhlenberg’s “Bartholomew Fair,” which runs Feb. 21–24.

Case has been a lecturer and designer at Muhlenberg since 1997. Prior to that, she designed costumes and makeup for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Archives, the Washington Opera, the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, the Harmonie Park Playhouse, the Hilberry Theatre, the Michigan Opera, and Wolf Trap.

Gurst received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Moore College of Art and Design. She has previously worked as a design assistant in New York City, and she recently designed “On the Town,” her ninth Muhlenberg production.

For Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance patrons, this showcase offers an opportunity to see what goes into creating a show for a nationally ranked college theater and dance program. 

“It’s a side of theater you don’t get to see,” Case says. “It’s a backstage peek. There’s a lot more to it than a costume appearing on stage. There’s psychology, sociology, and research, a lot of research, in addition to artistic talent… There are going to be beautiful, one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces of art you can’t see anywhere else. It’s truly a beautiful art form.”

The exhibition runs Feb. 25 to March 17. Tickets are not required and there is no charge for admission.  There will be an opening reception on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 5 to 6 p.m. The exhibit will be displayed in the Galleria of the Baker Center for the Arts on the Muhlenberg College campus at 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For more information, visit www.muhlenberg.edu/theatreanddance.