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Q&A with Costume Designer Camilla Morrison
This year, the Department of Theater and Cinema welcomes Assistant Professor Camilla Morrison to the fold as its visiting professor.
She earned her MFA in Costume Design and Technology at Louisiana State University and her BA in Theatre from Salisbury University in Maryland. Professor Morrison was a 2020-2021 North Dakota Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellow and has worked with Empire Theatre Company, Theatre B, Black Hills Playhouse, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Serenbe Playhouse, and Hangar Theatre. Professor Morrison has also worked in the Washington D.C. area as a freelance Costume Designer, Stage Manager, Teaching Artist, and Arts Administrator.
What is the first stage production you remember seeing and how did it affect you?
I grew up in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which has ceremonies and celebrations with dancing and music, which were my first experiences with performance. Seeing this type of storytelling through performance and celebration certainly informs the artist I am today – I love considering the small details of clothing that tell a story and how we ornament our bodies for self-expression.
My dad took me to see my first Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera, when I was a Junior in High School. I had participated in a few high school plays but had only seen videos of theatre productions at that point. It was incredible to be in a large, gorgeous theatre. I found every moment to be absolutely mesmerizing and my experience as an audience member showed me the impact a performance can have.
Why did you get into costume design?
As an undergrad, I had the opportunities as a sound designer, scenic painter, stage manager, director, and more, but I always found myself coming back to costumes! I love the level of collaboration we have with the director, artistic team, costume shop, and the performers. It can be magical when a performer suddenly starts to feel like their character during a fitting because of the costume created for them.
What was the first production you did costume work on? What do you remember about that experience?
In college at Salisbury University, I worked in the Costume Shop as a stitcher after being in Costume Construction class and loved it. The first show I worked on was Little Shop of Horrors where I built costumes in the shop, styled and upkept wigs, and was on the wardrobe crew. Seeing the process from designs through build to the stage had a big impact on me. It was incredible to be a part of something that so many people came to see and enjoy. Some of the people I got to know during that show are still my best friends today.
What was the most challenging production you ever worked on?
One of the most challenging and most satisfying productions I’ve worked on was Seussical directed by Brett John Olson. We supported the idea of jumping off the page onto the stage by painting all of the costumes and having the performers use a cel-shading technique to make everyone look more 2-D. It was a challenge to paint every costume piece seen onstage, but I had a wonderful assistant, Taran Robberstad, who created a pictorial tutorial so volunteers had a guide. I also had a group lesson with the cast to teach them how to follow the custom makeup designs I made for their characters and now love teaching this style of makeup in my class!
What production have you worked on that brought the most satisfaction for your personally?
This past summer, I worked on an absolute dream production of The Tempest directed by Rebekah Scallet at the Texas Shakespeare Festival. It was a joy to collaborate with Rebekah and to be able to share more of my island background with the team throughout the process. I created a large-scale custom silk painting for Ariel’s invisibility cloak and hand painted the costumes for each of the Spirits, which showcased my skill and passion for dyeing and painting.
Tell us a little about the productions you will work on this year.
This year at Radford University I am designing The Rainbow Fish Musical directed by Robyn Berg and Much Ado About Nothing directed by Molly Hood. I’m thrilled to be working on two very different productions that both have strong stories and characters. And I am so excited to get to know the students and faculty through these creative processes!
You moved all the way from North Dakota to join us here at Radford. What has your experience been like so far?
My experience at Radford University has been wonderful – the faculty and students are incredibly welcoming and it’s a great pleasure to join such a collaborative department. I am lucky enough to spend time each day in different areas on campus and truly enjoy taking in the beauty of Radford on my walk between classes or to the Costume Shop.