The University of Texas campus was quiet over the summer, while students and faculty spent their time working on projects around the globe. The College of Fine Arts was no exception. Students and faculty from all three departments took advantage of the break from coursework to pursue research, teach seminars or test the waters of a future career. Here is a glimpse into what happens when classes end, and the fun begins.
Susan Mickey, Susan Menefee Ragan Professorship in Fine Arts, Senior Associate Chair, and Head of Design & Technology for the Department of Theatre and Dance, designed costumes for Pride and Prejudice, performed by American Players Theatres in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Kelsey Vidic, second-year M.F.A. Costume Design student, assisted on the project.
Tell me a little about this performance of Pride and Prejudice and how you got involved.
S.M.: This production was at American Players Theatre in a large outdoor amphitheater that seats 1,200 people. It opened June 27 and runs through October. It was directed by Tyne Rafaeli, a woman from Great Britain who was extremely smart and brilliant at portraying the story at hand.
K.V.: I became involved when Susan recommended five or six of her students for the job. I sent in my resume and had a phone interview before being accepted to work with the company. Like Susan said, it was directed by an extremely smart woman who focused on telling the story through the lens of Lizzie and the way that she perceived the world around her.
How was working with the theatre in Wisconsin different than working on productions here at UT?
S.M.: Kelsey can speak to that better than I. The UT (theatre) is the laboratory for theatre students to practice their craft, and we try to provide them with the tools to best imitate the professional standards and practices used in theatre today.
K.V.: Being an assistant costume designer was much different than working as an assistant on productions at UT. When we assist at UT, there often isn't enough time to do all the jobs an assistant usually does because of our own commitments and class loads. Therefore, with this job, I had an incredible amount of responsibility going between the shop and the designer that I never had with assisting shows at UT. I learned so much with this position and was able to observe and learn from Susan by watching her work outside of school in a professional theater setting. It was an invaluable experience.
Pride and Prejudice is so well known. What did you try to bring to this production to put your unique touch on it?
S.M.: This production was much more earthy and grounded in a rural British aesthetic of the period that was rustic and real. The petticoats had mud on the hems and the clothes were made of linen so they held an air-of-use and humanity.
K.V.: This goes back to my first answer again and also what Susan said in her response. All in all, it really felt real and tangible—a historical show that the audience could physically relate to. It was natural and genuine.
What was one of the more memorable moments from the summer?
K.V.: Dairy month! June was dairy month in Wisconsin, and a farm each week would host a breakfast including pancakes, milk, cheese, eggs, ice cream and more! I love cheese, and that was exciting. Also getting out and shopping with Susan was really great. She mentioned the lace vintage shop trip but we also went to Madison to shop, and it was always really fun and informative to shop with Susan and hear all her stories about vintage items, buttons, fabrics, past shows, etc.
S.M.: Watching Kelsey consume all things cheese! Also the Frank Lloyd Wright school, house and studio, Taliesin, is right next door to the theatre. The Taliesin tour was an inspirational highlight for me.
Did you get the opportunity to take break and enjoy Wisconsin at all?
S.M.: One of our days for vintage lace shopping took us out through the countryside, and we ate lunch beside a beautiful river. The landscape in the area surrounding the theatre is quite beautiful!
K.V.: I definitely did! We got two days off a week, Sunday and Monday, and for me that is a lot of time off. I went to Madison frequently because the city was awesome and actually reminded me a lot of Austin. I also went to Devils Lake, a beautiful climbing/hiking/swimming area near Spring Green. Also I went to Governors Dodge State Park, which is right by Spring Green. The town of Spring Green was very small, but exploring around there was fun as long as you went before all the stores were closed. They had a general store that served amazing breakfast so I loved going there to eat, and you were sure to see at least three people from APT there since it was the only place to get breakfast.