At BU, MFA costume production students explore creative collaborations with directors, actors, technicians, and playwrights. They’re the creators of new forms of theatrical expression (and fashion) for the next generation.
In the MFA costume production program, graduate students enhance their artistic expression, communication, and production skills through hands-on, mentored production experience within a wide range of production opportunities and classroom instruction. With an average class size of eight to 10 students and a 10:2 student-to-instructor ratio, students are prepared for substantive and meaningful careers as theatre artists.
Meet BU’s Costume Production Program Head
BU’s costume production program head happens to be an award-winning costume designer whose visionary work for opera and theater spans several decades (and has graced stages across the United States and Europe). Nancy Leary, assistant professor of costume design and production at BU, has worked on established operas and newly conceived productions, including premieres for Boston Lyric Opera, Juilliard Opera, and others.
In CFA’s Faculty Feature series, Leary talks with CFA about BU’s costume production programs, the skills students obtain from the program, and the importance of a strong alumni network.
“I meet with a lot of alums in New York because I work back and forth from Boston to New York. It’s a network that I am keeping up with. They are taking our graduates in and helping them get jobs. They all help each other. If you’re talented and passionate, it’s easy to connect you to people who can help. At one point, at the New York City Ballet, we had all BU graduates in the shop doing crafts, tailoring, and draping.“
Program of Study
Training includes a rigorous curriculum that carefully balances draping, flat patterning, tailoring, history, design, and both millinery and dye exploration in an integrated sequence of class exercises and production opportunities.
Required classes explore both historical and theatrical methods of drafting, draping, tailoring, and construction ranging from the 13th to the 21st century. In the classroom, students have the freedom to select specific periods in history they wish to explore. All classes hinge on historical research, the genesis of each class project, which can be used to support the final outcome.
In the third year of the curriculum, there is an opportunity to pursue an internship outside the school setting with a professional theatre company. There is also a required capstone thesis which is an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills gained during the time in the program in one extensive assignment. The thesis is guided by the Production Advisor and two other committee members and when completed is shared with the student body during our annual year-end showcase.
Costume production students will participate in the fabrication of costumes for various productions at BU using skills and knowledge learned while in the classroom. Costume production students may be assigned as drapers, tailors, first hands, craft leads, and assistant shop managers for BU School of Theatre productions.
The CFA Production Center, a state-of-the-art center unifying the performance, design, and production programs at BU School of Theatre, offers a costume shop where costume production students take courses and work on their projects. There’s also a separate craft and dye space, plus a costume stock room filled with more than 10,000 costume pieces.
Featured Student Work
It’s all in the attention to detail.
Students receive one-on-one mentoring by professional faculty members, whose work has been seen throughout the world, in regional theaters, on Broadway, and internationally. Costume production majors see their work in BU School of Theatre productions. They also have opportunities to dive into costume production work at off-campus theatre productions.
Costume production students also participate in SOT’s annual Theatre Showcase that takes place in Boston or New York City. The event serves as a celebration of the graduating class and the group’s formal introduction to the professional theatre community.
The professional costume shop is very supportive and collaborative. I enjoyed being able to work closely with both graduate and undergraduate students alike.
MFA Design & Production Theatre Graduates Present at National Design Portfolio Review
An introduction of talented, emerging designers to the industry included five BU MFA grads
Nancy Lynn Leary
Associate Professor, Costume Design
Costume Shop Manager; Lecturer, Costume Production
Lecturer, Costume Crafts
- Nancy Leary: In 2016, Leary’s designs for The Magic Flute were displayed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, alongside set and costume designs by costume design trailblazers William Kentridge, Chagall, and Julie Taymor
- Denise Wallace-Spriggs: Resident Crafts/Artisan Dyer for the Huntington Theatre Company, which won a Tony award for Best Regional Theatre
Chelsea Kerl (CFA’14): Kerl has designed costumes for almost every theatre company in Boston including: Gloucester Stage (A Measure of Normalcy), New Repertory Theatre (The Little Prince), the Huntington Theatre Company (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (Beckett in Brief), and Wheelock Family Theatre (James and the Giant Peach). In 2019, Kerl, as the staff costume technician at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), constructed dozens of costumes for the world premiere of a musical adaption of Moby-Dick.
Vinnie Loucks (CFA’20): Loucks is a costume technician and artist. Originally from Seneca Falls, New York, Loucks works as a First Hand at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. Shows include Noir, Born with Teeth, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Sense and Sensibility, and A Christmas Carol, among others. Check out Loucks’ costume portfolio and his works from his time in BU’s costume production program.
Tetsuo Tamanaha (CFA’04): Tamanaha is an assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Originally from Okinawa, Tamanaha has worked in the fashion industry as a Designer/Patternmaker for companies like DKNY Coat. He’s also designed and produced costumes for theatre and opera productions in New York and Boston, including McLeod Summer Playhouse and Huntington Theatre. See Tamanaha’s portfolio.
Next Steps for Applicants
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