By Tyara Estrada (BBA '22)
Starting in March, Corcoran students suddenly found themselves learning from home. What was supposed to be a week-long spring break turned into remote learning for the rest of the school year in the wake of a global pandemic. This unprecedented shift changed classroom dynamics, especially for classes that require studio time and in-person learning techniques.
In the face of these challenges, Professor Sigrid Johannesdottir, who teaches Theatre and Dance 1330: Basics of Production Design, created an assignment for her students that would allow them to channel their creativity in their homes. In April, her students were tasked with recreating a look from one of three possible Broadway shows: Kinky Boots, An American in Paris, or Macbeth. They were encouraged to use existing items from their closets to create a costume for the character of their choice.
Students Taylor Golland (BA Theatre ‘23), Chloe Olwell (BA Theatre and Journalism and Mass Communications ‘23), and Miranda Lee (BS Statistics and BA Theatre ‘23) shared their experiences with learning remotely, remaining creative and their experience creating a look for this assignment. One student even received recognition from a Broadway star!
How have you continued your creative process at home?
Taylor: “Remaining creative at home has been difficult because of my workload and expected family responsibilities, but I’ve been trying to paint, sketch and build as much as I can. This class (TRDA 1330) has helped me so much and I am so grateful because it gives me an allotted amount of time to experiment with sewing, sketching, and creative thoughts. Outside of class, I painted and built a coat hanger and a table for my dad’s house, and I plan on painting my room once classes are over.”
Chloe: “While at home, I have stayed creative by knitting, sewing, sketching, and lots and lots of journaling. I am currently almost done with a knit hat that I recently started.”
Miranda: “Like many others are probably finding, working from home has been both easy and hard in many ways. I've found that it's been great for me to keep up with my singing alongside my theatre classes, and I've been doing more and more recordings practicing my technique (as well as just singing things that I love)! I've also had more time to spend with my sister, who plays viola at our state's Governor's School for the Arts, and she's started composing a piece for us to perform together, soprano and viola.”
Can you tell me a bit about your piece for the project? What was this assignment like in comparison to some of your other remote learning assignments?
Taylor: “Within this class, this design project has been one of my favorites I’ve ever done. I don’t have a sewing machine at home, and I have essentially no sewing experience prior to this class, so I was nervous about having to improvise, but at the same time my lack of expectation was freeing because I knew everything I’d be doing was purely experimental and a learning process.”
“I chose to recreate Lola’s opening outfit from Kinky Boots, because Kinky has been my biggest inspiration as a designer, theater kid and individual. The sheer confidence and boldness of the outfits and sets sparked a turning point in my own personality, so I was super excited to recreate a design that meant so much to me. I had to cut the sheer skirt part from an old dress and hand sew it to the corset. Then, I hand stoned ribbons with rhinestones, superglue, and desperation to sew on as straps. Finally, I recreated my makeup based on a picture of J. Harrison Ghee as Lola, and the whole outfit was done.”
“I worked on this assignment for literally four days straight, around 6 hours a day, and I’d say it was the most dedication I’ve had to any assignment not only in quarantine, but ever. I attribute a lot of this to Sigrid, because her teaching style is much more about the learning process than the outcome. Therefore, this assignment varies from the other assignments I’ve received at home because it promoted sheer experimentation, and I was working on it for my own gain, not to check off a set of boxes for a grade. Plus, my pictures of the costume were actually reposted on J. Harrison Ghee’s Instagram story (an actor who played Lola in Kinky Boots), which was really cool!”
Chloe: “I chose Macbeth from Macbeth and based my costume design off the 2010 film with Patrick Stewart. Macbeth is probably my favorite play ever and playing Macbeth is my absolute dream role. I pieced together the costume by using whatever I could find around my house. The blood on my hands and face is a mixture of ketchup and red pasta sauce. In comparison to my other remote learning assignments, this assignment for 1330 was more hands on in terms of creating and building something. I was actually making something with my hands, which is different from any of my other classes. Even my performance classes, which are also really creative, I am creating something without using anything else, but this project was really hands on— literally. It was very cathartic.”
Miranda: “Going into this project, I knew I wanted to recreate looks from An American In Paris - but I was missing half of my wardrobe! But what was good about this project was that it had enough freedom in it for me to choose any costume from the show I wanted and take my own artistic liberties to add buttons, see collars and create the general ‘feel’ of the show in my recreations without feeling like I was missing something just because my resources were limited from being home.”
Despite a seemingly never ending stream of tough news, these theatre students found a way to put their energy into creating something that had no bounds. They were free to be as experimental as they wished, and it is evident that their hard work paid off. After all, it is not every day that J. Harrison Ghee reposts you on his Instagram Story!
Professor Sigrid Johannesdottir will be teaching Theatre and Dance (TRDA) 4595.10: Scenic and Faux Painting next semester. The course is an exploration and application of the techniques and materials used in creating character in the various elements of scene painting and faux finishing methods. For more information or questions, contact Professor Johannesdottir at [email protected].