Returning to Careers Past

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Well, I've had some big news lately, and my blogging absence reflects what is happening in my life...

I worked at the University of San Diego for 10 years before they revised the job description and I left.  For three years I developed my own business, designed around town and worked in various costume shops, and tried to redefine my skills toward something non-theatre.  I am proud of what I've accomplished, and don't intend on giving it up.

Recently, they decided to restore the responsibilities of that position to what they were when I left.  I was asked if I might be interested in applying for it, and returning to being their costume person and designing/coordinating their shows.

A lot has changed at USD since I left.  Some of the players are gone--the ones who made my life particularly stressful and were responsible for shifting the costume position away from something I was interested in keeping.  There was nothing for me when I left.  But now, coming back to what I had before was very attractive.  I loved it there.  It wasn't until the changes happened that things went sour.

I applied for the job, went through a portfolio presentation and interview, and got it.  I am now the Faculty Costume Shop Manager at the University of San Diego, responsible for designing and building 3 shows each year, and teaching three classes.  I have the rank of Adjunct Assistant Professor and am 5/8ths time, with benefits.  Again.  (I actually went up on the world--I had been called an "Adjunct Instructor"...)

Originally, I was not scheduled to do anything this first semester but design and build one of their undergraduate shows.  But some special circumstances happened (their full-time Scenographer isn't back in town from the Ukraine yet), so I assumed teaching responsibilities for two of his classes.  And I also took up responsibility for designing/building a second undergraduate show since there was a time crunch.  That's three extra responsibilities no one had planned on.

So currently, I am teaching his two sections of Fundamentals of Theatrical Design, and designing two shows--Anatomy of Grey and The Beaux' Stratagem, both undergraduate shows for their Bachelor of Arts degree program.  Next semester I will help mentor their Devised Theatre project, design and build their MFA level show (Tartuffe), and teach a third class (probably Theatre and Society, their intro-level class).

It is a unique experience coming back to the costume shop I designed and working in the program where I helped formulate their BA degree.  When I started there 13 years ago, there was no costume shop and no Theatre major.  In the interim, I have seen the program shift through 8 different program chairs, 3 different departments, and gain 4 full-time positions.  I helped design the small costume shop, storage areas, and dressing rooms that exist today.  In my previous time at USD, I ended up designing/building 63 shows, and when I left I had designed half of the MFA shows that had ever been mounted in their graduate degree program's history.

Theatre at USD is unique--there is a generalized BA undergraduate degree, and there is a MFA degree in Acting co-sponsored by the Old Globe Theatre.  Until this year, the programs were separate and distinct, but they will be merging soon, with the head of the graduate program being the overall chair of the department and an associate chair being hired to coordinate the undergrad side of things.  In the past, the two sides of theatre education at USD had to share my resources and time as the sole costume person for both programs.  But now, with the two sides merging, that position's time as the "servant of two masters" just got a LOT easier.  Having one "boss" (ultimately) will be a boon.

So I'm back.  And I'm happy.  Happier than I have been in a very very long time.  I'm doing something I know how to do, enjoying my time designing and planning out the build of different garments, and re-establishing my relationships with old colleagues.  I know my way around that space--I helped make it.

But most of all I'm very excited that I can get back to teaching, which is what I feel I was really meant to do in this world.  I come from a family of teachers--both of my grandmothers were teachers, several of my aunts and uncles taught high school, and my own parents work for the school district where I went to high school in Missouri.  One of my sisters teaches at the University of Missouri, and I have cousins in education as well.  It's in my blood.  I'm really getting the best of both worlds here--I can teach and do art at the same time.

This doesn't mean my business is going away.  By no means.  I was accepted to my first juried Art Festival in mid-October, The La Jolla Art and Wine Festival, and I'm incredibly excited!!  I plan on continuing my own costume endeavors through a more "artistic bent" and demonstrating to my students that it is possible to use the experience earning a theatre degree to do more than theatre.  Since it's 5/8ths time, I plan on being a living demonstration of what it means to use one's education to define one's own artistic merit outside of a traditional theatre structure, which is something some of them might need to do if they want to be able to make a living using their skills.  Costume Designing doesn't pay well, honestly.  Best to be able to expand one's horizons.  There are lots of ways of applying one's theatre education nowadays.  Believe me.  It's not all pre-professional preparation for entering the traditional theatre industry.  It doesn't have to be.

So.  Thought I'd keep you all updated.  Wish me luck!!  I'm already incredibly busy!!  But it's a happy busy.  And a comfortable busy.  And a busy that I'm proud to be wrapped up in.  It's rather like coming home, in a way.   And for me, it's a good thing.




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