40 Years in the Making: Alumnus Returns to CCM for His Degree

In 1976 Randall Kent was in his senior year at the University of Cincinnati when he left school to focus on working full time at his own company Stagecraft Inc. Forty years later, he returned to UC’s College-Conservatory of Music to finish his studies and earn a BFA in Costume Design and Technology.

Randall Kent with his former students from McAuley High School.

Randall Kent with his former students from McAuley High School. Photo provided by Randall Kent.

Kent is the Technical Theater Director at McAuley High School and continues to serve as the president and CEO of Stagecraft Inc. With his company, Kent has created character costumes and mascots for amusement parks, sports teams, movies and universities. As a student, he created the UC Bearcat costume that was used from 1975 to 2006.

Kent’s passion for costume design began in the summer of 1972 at the Kings Island amusement park. He performed daily in the park’s classic Hanna-Barbera costumes, which were “old, hot and in disrepair,” Kent remembers.

He began studying technical theatre at CCM that fall and returned to Kings Island with the skills he learned in class. Kent took apart the park’s costumes and made new designs, turning 10 old costumes into 30 new costumes — from Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear to The Banana Splits.

As Character Supervisor at Kings Island, Kent repaired character costumes like Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear.

As Character Supervisor at Kings Island, Kent repaired character costumes like Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear. Photo provided by Randall Kent.

In 1975 former ice hockey team the Cincinnati Stingers reached out to Kings Island for a referral company that could design and build a new mascot. Kent created the Stinger Bee “Slapshot” mascot through Stagecraft Inc. and launched his professional career.

The business was so successful that Kent left CCM a year after Stagecraft Inc. began. The company created costumes for Disney, Six Flags, Universal Studios and multiple universities from Maryland to Oregon. Stagecraft’s mascot costumes were featured in films The Waterboy, The Program and Old School. Stagecraft most recently created character costumes for Mentos gum, Miami Savings Bank, Walnut Hills High School and Roger Bacon High School.

Kent’s passion led him to teaching when he followed his daughter to McAuley High School twelve years ago. He began volunteering as the high school’s Technical Theater Director, which later became an official paid position. Kent oversaw the costume design for the school’s productions of Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins, both shows won Cappie awards for best costumes.

Kent's costumes in McAuley High School's production of "Beauty and the Beast."

Kent’s costumes in McAuley High School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Photo provided by Randall Kent.

Kent made an immediate connection with his students, who ultimately inspired him to go back to school. He returned to CCM to finish the degree he left behind 40 years previously and graduated with a BFA in Costume Design and Technology in December, 2016.

Three of his students from McAuley High School joined Kent in his last semester; two are in CCM’s costume design program and one is in the stage design program. Ironically, they were in the same technical theatre class together at CCM.

“It seemed quite natural that we be in class together and quite rewarding for me that I could have that kind of effect on my students,” Kent says. “I hope to send more to CCM in the future.”

Randall Kent and his students at the Cappie Awards.

Randall Kent and his students at the Cappie Awards. Photo provided by Randall Kent.

After he graduated from CCM, Kent jumped into his role as Technical Theater Director at McAuley High School. He and his students designed and built everything from the costumes to the set for the school’s spring musical All Shook Up, which ran April 7-9. The show was nominated for 24 Cappie awards, including best costumes.

Kent plans to continue to grow his passion for theatre at the high school and Stagecraft Inc.

“Getting that piece of paper was very rewarding and made me feel like I had come full circle,” Kent says of his degree from CCM. “It validated me as a artist and business man. It also ensured that I could teach as the teacher of record.”

Congratulations to all of CCM’s 2016-17 graduates! Photos from this year’s Graduation Convocation Ceremony will be posted to the CCM Village News later this week.

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'The Merry Widow' photography by Mark Lyons.

Discussing ‘The Merry Widow’ Costumes with Student Designer Greta Stokes

The Merry Widow Costume Designer Greta Stokes recently sat down with CCM Public Information Assistant and DMA student Charlotte Kies to discuss the work that went into this delightful new production of Franz Lehár’s most popular operetta.

Charlotte Kies: Hi Greta! What can you tell me about your inspiration for these costumes?

Juliana Rucker draped and built this charming blue dress for Valencienne. Photography by Steve Shin.

Juliana Rucker draped and built this charming blue dress for Valencienne. Photo by Steve Shin.

Greta Stokes: Although the opera was written right around the turn of the 20th century, we knew we wanted to create a more modern silhouette for the women’s garments, like the same kind of idea behind Dior’s new look of the 1950s.

But when we began working with the text and thinking about how the actors are interacting we kind of let go of the design being so strict. It became more 50s, 60s, 90s, now. It became looser and less of a period piece, because it’s not a stiff opera. It doesn’t need to be historical.

When I first got assigned this show I watched an old production of it, I looked at old stills and I got a feel for what the opera used to be. At this point we had already decided on the 50’s. If you look at my Pinterest board it starts with these beautiful black and white photos. And then you can see how after every conversation I had with [Merry Widow director] Professor Emma Griffin the board gets crazier and crazier, and brighter, and begins to include things that aren’t from the 50’s at all, like these modern fashion collections and this weird art. It started out very demure, with lots of little black dresses. And then it just got wild, and the cast is really into it. It has been a great kind of build up to that and I think that the result is really interesting and different and fun.

Greta Stokes' design concept for Hanna's dress.

Greta Stokes’ design concept for Hanna’s dress.

CK: So the costumes are not specific to one decade?

GS: They’re mid-century flavored. There are a lot of brighter colors, and we took a lot of inspiration from more modern fashion houses. There’s a lot of Prada and Dolce & Gabbana resort lines right now that are very colorful. Our costumes are those two ideas [vintage and modern] married together.

When people come in for a fitting for a period piece and they’re putting high-fitted pleated pants on you, they look great if you’re doing a strictly 50’s show. Even though they look great on stage, you can tell the actors are uncomfortable in them. So to have a modern cut with a vintage feel, I know my performers will go on stage feeling comfortable and good about how they look, and you can really see that in their movements.

CK: Can you tell me about your design process?

GS: We started looking at research in the middle of last semester before it was cast. All of the designers got together to discuss concepts, colors schemes and how we would interact with each other. We built research collages and talked about what inspired us. From there I decided what pieces needed to be built for the performers. Our lead character’s costume is getting built from scratch. We discussed how the characters are in this made-up country at an embassy in Paris and what that might look like. We got to decide what and where that country was. We decided on something eastern European, but I incorporated little bits of different European cultures into a made-up folk costume so you’ll see elements of that. There are two characters that are wearing kilts and one in lederhosen. There are little flavors of recognizable folk traditions scattered among the Petrovenians. It’s off the wall but still a little controlled. When I’m in the costume shop and all around me are flower crowns and lederhosen and kilts and a bunch of tuxedoes, I feel I should be telling people “I swear I’m not crazy, I promise this will make sense!” Fingers crossed!

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photography by Steve Shin.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

CK: Does Hanna have a costume change in the middle of the show?

GS: She kind of does, she has this outer shell made with beautiful pink dupioni. The shell comes off later in the opera as the acts and the parties go on. And there are so many crystals on that black skirt, it’s gonna be on fire.

CK: How are these costumes different from costumes you might see in another version?

GS: In the original versions there are HUGE choruses and they’re all wearing these crazy costumes that are all very expensive and lavish. Older productions were all about the costumes, and the performers just kind of walk around the stage going “lalala, look at my giant hat, lalalalala.”

Ours is a condensed, smaller cast. It’s still a lot of people, but because we have created more modern clothing, it has become really more about their movement. The idea is that they’re drinking, moving from one party to the next. They’re having a really good time.

CK: How much liberty do you have? Do you get to design whatever you want? Do you have any restrictions or guidelines?

In Act II, the party guests reconvene at Hanna Glawari’s house for a garden party. Brian Horton built these hats for the characters, who decide that Hanna’s garden is better suited for their outfits. Photography by Steve Shin.

In Act II, the party guests reconvene at Hanna Glawari’s house for a garden party. Brian Horton built these hats for the characters, who decide that Hanna’s garden is better suited for their outfits. Photo by Steve Shin.

GS: We operate under the guidance of Professor Dean Mogle, head of the Costume Design and Technology program at CCM. I would say we are restricted by what we are able to get. Obviously there are time restrictions, as well. I couldn’t ask them to build every single tuxedo, so we purchased tuxedos. I designed Hanna’s costume to look like a mix between Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith.

As for the dancers, I actually found these vintage dresses that we had in stock that were specifically dance dresses. Because we are not doing a traditional can-can we can use these really full, floofy skirts with all these sparkles and stuff. In Act II they’re all at Hanna’s house for a garden party and the women take these flowers off of the set and put them on their hats. They are completely ruining her garden, and she totally does not care.

Professor Griffin is incredible to work with. She is so great at letting designers have liberties, while still reining us in or pushing us forward. It is really nice to have all those liberties, to be able to create this world out of nothing and figure out what exists in it.

CK: Is it the same dress design for the two Hanna’s?

GS: Yes, but they are built to fit each performer. The design will be the same, but the fit will be different just because the bodies are.

CK: How much work are you doing outside of CCM while you’re also a student?

GS: Oh, not a lot, because I’m a little busy! I am working on The Little Prince right now for Cincinnati Chamber Opera as the costume designer/coordinator.

I also work for New Edgecliff Theatre. We just closed Frankie & Johnny in the Clare de Lune and we’ll be back in the spring with The Shape of Things.

CK: Have you enjoyed your time as a student at CCM?

GS: Of course yes! I am from Columbus, so I’m not too far from my family. This school is incredible. I love how hands-on it is and how we’re really working as a professional theatre would. We are learning to interact with each other and not just in our own little worlds.

CK: How did you get into costume design?

GS: I am a non-traditional student, so I ‘m quite a bit older. I did theatre in high school. I worked in the costume shop. I did a little acting, but I wasn’t very good! I stitched. I was friends with all of the theatre kids and I really liked it. My grandmother was a dress designer so I would always go play with her dressmaking tools and pocket a few of them. I continued to work in vintage stores for a long time doing alterations for vintage clothing.

I have always been working with clothing, and this made more sense than fashion. I have always really loved the theatre community and I feel like it has a really good turnover. It’s not like “oh, polka-dots are so in right now.” It’s a constant challenge.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

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Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow runs Nov. 19 – 22 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Tickets are $31-35 for adults, $20-24 for non-UC students and $18-22 UC students with a valid ID. $12-$15 student rush tickets will become available one hour prior to each performance; limit two student rush tickets per valid ID.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/merry-widow.

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

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CCM Costume Design and Technology Celebrates the Work of Legendary Designer Jane Greenwood with Exhibit During USITT Conference Next Week

Next week, Cincinnati will welcome the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) to the Duke Energy Convention Center for its 55th annual Conference and Stage Expo. Running from March 18 – 21, this multidisciplinary showcase will draw performing arts industry leaders from throughout the world, as well as scores of current and former CCM students and faculty members.

Legendary costume designer Jane Greenwood will be honored with the USITT Costume Commission’s Distinguished Achievement Award during this year’s conference and CCM’s Costume Design and Technology Program will curate a costume exhibition during the event in honor of her achievements. Last year, Greenwood was awarded the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Organized by CCM Costume Design and Technology Professor and Program Head Dean Mogle, the exhibit will feature the magnificent costumes from Greenwood’s Broadway production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. CCM had the opportunity to purchase this extraordinary collection several years ago, as the national tour of The Scarlet Pimpernel came to an end.

Mogle explains, “I was particularly interested in acquiring this collection due to its exceptional attention to period design and detail, as well as the wide range of fabrics and costume crafts represented, from hats to shoes to hand-painted textiles.”

CCMJaneGreenwoodCollectionCollage

According to Mogle, this single production demonstrated the full range of Greenwood’s creative imagination, character work and mastery of her craft: from the lavish “Cupid” costumes and headpieces, to the elegant ball clothes, to the animal-inspired “Creation of Man” ensembles, to the beautifully hand-painted examples of lower class citizenry.

CCMJaneGreenwoodCollection6Not only did this collection add to CCM’s 25,000 piece costume stock inventory, it has also been used as a preeminent example of professional skill for the training of Mogle’s students in tailoring, dressmaking, millinery, crafts, and design.

Dubbed simply “Magnificent!”, this exhibit will also call attention to the expertise of the makers and crafts artisans from the studios of Eric Winterling, Parsons-Meares, John David Ridge and Lynne Mackey, among others, who were responsible for bringing Ms. Greenwood’s designs to life.

Mogle and his team are making final preparations this week and 30 costumes from Greenwood’s Broadway production of The Scarlet Pimpernel will then be transported to and installed in the Duke Energy Convention Center. Exhibition visitors will be able to appreciate up-close the beautiful fabrics, cut, construction, finish and craft details for which Greenwood and her collaborators are well known.

About Jane Greenwood
hs_janegreenwood
Jane Greenwood is the legendary costumer designer of more than 125 Broadway shows,  including last season’s Act One, along with numerous productions for regional theaters, opera and ballet companies, television and film. She was honored with the Tony Awrd for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre in 2014.

Ms. Greenwood’s professional career began with training at Liverpool Art Academy and London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. She learned from such influential historians, designers and crafts artisans as Norah Waugh, Janet Arnold, Tanya Moiseiwitsch and Desmond Heeley. This early training is reflected in her true understanding of period silhouettes, fabrics, trims and construction techniques.

Beyond these technical considerations, Jane Greenwood is ultimately respected for her impeccably detailed character work from principles to supernumeraries. All characters, no matter what their role or whether they speak or sing a word, have a story to tell. Ms. Greenwood’s designs always tell their story.

About the USITT
The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) is a place to network, exchange ideas and grow. Professionals and pre-professionals in design, production and technology for the performing arts have been keeping USITT vital and strong since 1960.

USITT provides learning opportunities and networking for over 3,800 members worldwide. From the architects who design the spaces to those who create and manage productions, USITT is the place where the performing arts community gathers. Learn more by visiting www.usitt.org.

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