By Micaela Donnelly

In the basement, underneath the stage that the actors perform on, is a tiny workspace where the costume designs come to life. Where a former stage actress who now is a Western Michigan University professor pursuesher passion of becoming a costume designer.

Kathryn Wagner, started off as a performer at DePaul University and did costuming on the side, and realized that she had a love for designing costumes. Wagner has now been a costume designer for 32 years. She came to WMU in 2008, and works as an assistant professor and is head of costume designs at the University Theatre.

Making a costume come to life is a very long process, with a lot of research involved and many rough sketches before the final one is chosen, Wagner says. In her office, drawings in rich greens and golds from last spring’s production of The Wiz enlightens the workspace.

The Wiz had over 100 different costume designs and each time the actors would appear on stage, they would be wearing something different. “It was fun to come up with so many different costume designs for one show,” Wagner says.

Wagner isn’t a fan of shopping, but she is in charge of finding all the store-bought pieces for the shows. Every show usually has some costume pieces that are store-bought and some that are handmade as well, Wagner says.

The best part about being a costume designer, Wagner says, is “interacting with the students and seeing the final design come to life on stage.”


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