abby simmons on costume design
Jayme: Abby, can you tell me a little bit about how you got into costume design?
Abby: I started performing in high school. I was in all of the plays and I went to college and quickly wanted to pursue a theater arts major. And I actually took costume design as a required class. You needed one design class and I took it and I fell in love with it. I really enjoy drawing and I really enjoy digging into character development. And that was a good intersection of the two.
Jayme: Cool! And so are you now pursuing it as a career?
Abby: I kind of am? I still really love performance and I really love design and I am slowly but surely building up a design portfolio and I hope that will take me places.
Jayme: How does one break into costume design? How do you make it a career?
Abby: That is a great question that I'm still figuring out. Most of what I've been told by professionals in the industry is that it's all about the people you know. But I would argue it's about the people you know and the amount of work you're willing to put in. Working with people, having good people skills is a huge part of it because you are designing for humans. You're very closely interacting. Maintaining good connections and just studying. Constantly studying. You're never done learning what there is to know about clothes…ever.
Jayme: And how did you get involved with BHCT?
Abby: So I am from Rapid, but I never had a chance to really get involved with the community theater when I was here still in high school. I was too busy. I went to school, college in Wisconsin, and then basically the pandemic brought me back home. And I was really curious about maybe getting to work with the community theater now that I wasn't going to school. And I had more time on my hands. I was asked if I wanted to do Charlotte's Web, which was the last summer series show next to Sense and Sensibility. And I basically just called the theater and said, "Hey, I want to get involved and do theater and things. I do costume design and whatnot. I would love to get in touch," and they put me in touch with Chris and then they gave me a tour. It was Ryan and Zach at the time. They gave me a tour and they just asked what I wanted to get out of my time. And I said, "I would like to design at this point." And that was it.
Jayme: The rest is history…
Abby: Yeah. Ha ha.
Jayme: Are there any memorable moments from the shows that you've designed here so far? Any behind the scenes things that we laymen wouldn't know about costuming?
Abby: There's all sorts of things. And a lot of the costume designing is making it kind of inconspicuous such that you're not really thinking about it, because it just feels so natural, if that makes sense. What you're looking at. But I guess doing Cherry Street, I designed their winter show, Midsummer. And working with the kids, I had never worked with that age group before and it was amazing. Just how they interact with costumes and clothing compared to adults is fascinating. And just their attitude and willingness towards wearing a funky costume and having funny hairstyles, stuff like that. I guess I had to be a personal dresser for Men on Boats. I was an actor in that show and I costume designed and I had to help Jenna get dressed every night because her character had one arm.
Jayme: That's amazing. Any final thoughts about costume designing at BHCT that you want to add?
Abby: I hope we get more people interested in design here through the workshops and whatnot. I feel like I'm the youngest one here and it'd be great to get more people involved. And if you're worried about finding a place in the mix, I find this is one of the most nurturing and welcoming theater environments to do that in. Everyone you work with just wants to see you succeed. Because if you succeed, then the community's succeeding. So yeah. Give it a shot, take a workshop, encourage BHCT to offer more workshops, and then come and design here because it's a really awesome way to get involved. And we always need people. It takes a literal village to costume a show and we love to have people come and help.
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