January 2017

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January 2017

News & Notices

Member Spotlight: Jeanette Aultz

Q&A with Jeanette Aultz: costume designer, technician, draper, special effects makeup artist, and educator at Montclair State University.

USITT: How did you get involved in costuming?

Jeanette: My mom taught me how to sew. I got her to teach me when I was 14 how to use sewing machines. I went to college for dance and have a BFA in dance. When you’re in college, even for dance, you have to do your tech requirements, so I would volunteer to help with costumes because I knew how to sew. By the end of the four years, for my senior project I was doing the costumes for the student choreographed dance concert and by the time I got there I was much more interested in doing the costumes and backstage work than I was in performing anymore.

How do you start your design process?

I’m more of a technician now. I do design a little bit, but I’m primarily a draper. Whether it’s a director or a choreographer, I want to hear what their thoughts are first and either see the work that’s happening with choreography or reading the play. Hearing the words, the feeling, and to go from there and then go into searching for images and doing that research that encompasses those imagery words that a director or choreographer might provide.

Is there a certain style of design you’re drawn to?

I always pick projects that I’m going to have fun with especially if it’s design because you’re going to be with it constantly. About two years ago I designed a new play called “The Appeal to the Woman of the House” and it was the first time I’d worked with a play that had just been written, working with the playwright and director, and it was a wonderful collaboration all around where everybody trusted each other and all the actors were wonderful and the play was beautiful and meaningful in all the right ways. It really brought all the things that I love about theatre all together. What you hold with you is the experience of the production and that’s what I really loved.

Have you ever experienced a challenge in design?

I almost always bite off almost more than I can chew. Like right now I’m at Montclair State University and we’re opening Aida and our student costume designer wanted light-up costumes. I have literally never done this before but I said “Yeah, let’s do it!” I had no idea what I was doing but you get to that moment where you go “Oh, I’ve just said yes to do this and I don’t know how,” so I just started asking anyone I knew if they could point me in the direction to learn how to do this. It was clearly a bigger job than I knew it was going to be. It was a huge challenge but it looks as if it’s going to pay off really well.

How did you get involved with special effects makeup?

I’m the first person that says “Yeah, I’ll try that.” I can’t even watch bloody gory things on TV, I can’t even stomach it but I was the only person who wanted to deal with the blood so it became my thing. It was something I had to teach myself. I would ask anyone that I could about what they knew and if they could suggest products. When I was working at Brooklyn College, it seemed like every production they would amp up the effects. I did a poster session a few years back at the conference where it was a silicon slash wound that had to be stitched together.

How does USITT play a role in your life?

It’s been really great for seeing people that I know. It’s a little reunion every time I go to the conference. I think it has expanded my network because I go to the conference and meet people and I’ve always found that I get a whole list of people that I can send an email to that keeps expanding. I can say hello and ask for advice or try to find people if we need to hire someone for a job. It’s this fantastic, extraordinarily supportive network that the more that I get involved in the wider that net is cast. It’s been a fantastic professional support network that I wouldn’t give up.

Suggest a USITT Member for the Spotlight!

If you know of USITT members whose work should be in the Spotlight, please feel free to suggest them. Contact Lynne Dundas at lynne@usitt.org.