Grace DuVal Johnston
Costume Shop Assistant, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
About My Co-op Experience
Working at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater has allowed me to see how a professional theater is run. I have had the opportunity to work with professional costume designers, drapers, and stitchers, and to learn new skills and techniques that they have developed over the years. They are wonderful at giving me garment construction advice and tips for new and innovative materials that I can use in my own work. I know that I can walk up to any member of the crew and ask them about anything related to making or building and they will have interesting and new techniques that I have never used before. The crew at the CST is really like a large family, and I have been warmly welcomed into this community.
What I Learned from My Co-op Experience
I am very interested in using new and unusual materials and techniques in my personal work, and being at CST has exposed me to an array of alternative methods that I have never used before. Due to time constraints and necessity, the way that costumes are sewn and embellished is very different from in the fashion industry. Learning a new set of skills that can be applied to my personal practice is invaluable.
The internship has also given me connections to the wider theater and artistic community and allowed me to become familiar with a network of working artists and professionals. I have been offered future work through this internship and have many high-caliber makers that I can call if I'm in need of extra assistance. These ties are so crucial upon graduation, as it will help me to translate from the art school experience into the wider world where I have to balance my practice with working and a career.
My Professional Project
In the Fall of 2013, I was awarded the World Less Traveled grant to travel to Wellington, New Zealand to participate in an international fashion show called World of Wearable Art. This is an elaborate fashion show that combines theater, performance, costume, and fashion to create a spectacular stage show unlike any runway show. As a part of my Coop experience I decided to take the opportunity to build a piece for this show while I was working at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
World of Wearable Art is a show divided into themed sections, one of which is called the "Bizarre Bra" category. I wanted to create a piece full of whimsy, humor, and strong construction skills, so I decided to make a cuckoo clock bra with functioning, extendable birds that pop out of the chest. Throughout the building of this creation I consulted with my internship supervisor about construction techniques and various materials that I could use. Because this was a more theatrical piece, the CST was invaluable at making suggestions that would make my piece both more impressive and long-lasting. The piece has made it through jury and will be performed in the WOW show in the fall of 2014.
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