CLAS Acts Nov. 2007

Costume shop

November 2007
Volume 1, Issue 3

Our Mission: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.  CLAS Dean's Office Monthly Newsletter for Faculty  

ITALY & THE SEA The Italian program is working with Instructional Technology, the College of Education and the Music Department to realize a collaborative Fair-Forum to be held November 16 in Loosemore Auditorium. 10:00 - 11:00 Fair-Forum. Display of Italian projects in the Hager-Lubbers exhibition Hall 11:00 - 11:45 Sea Stories and Music performance. Collaborative project between Italian 280 students and GVSU Music composition students and Performance students. Loosemore Auditorium. 11:45 - 1:00 Reception in the Regency room. Contact Gisella Licari.
From the Dean's Desk
Frederick J. Antczak, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

First, I'd like to thank all of the faculty members who have taken a moment to send us a supportive message about this new faculty monthly newsletter.   Our goal will be to let you know what we're working on, provide some useful news, and let you know about some of the wonderful faculty projects taking place in our college-while keeping to a compact, easy-to-read format. Our CLAS Faculty Research Colloquia are enjoying good turn-outs this term, and I heartily recommend them to you.  We have another coming up on Friday, November 16 in 308 PAD.  Gary Stark (History), Bopaiah Biddanda (AWRI), Rachel Anderson (English), Rachel A. Powers (Chemistry) and Anna Campbell (Art & Design) will all be presenting their recent work.  This is a great opportunity to make some connections outside of your own department and to enjoy a glass of wine.  Hats off to Mark Staves for his on-going commitment to making these colloquia happen for the good of the College. Speaking of great turn-outs, I was very pleased to see so many of you (sitting as deans do, facing the faculty) at graduation last Winter.  I look forward to seeing even more of you for the Fall commencement. This month we look forward to the return from sabbatical of Associate Dean Jann Joseph who will be working on the equitable distribution of space, the development of the new CLAS Advising Center, sharing NSF updates and supporting faculty grant writing. Associate Dean Gary Stark will be working with those units that are still revising their evaluation criteria and expectations; reviewing Round 1 of the 2008-09 class schedule; monitoring Winter 2008 classes with low enrollment; supervising evaluation of unit heads whose appointments are expiring; organizing orientation sessions for new unit heads; scheduling faculty to interview for Student Scholarship Competition days; interviewing candidates for faculty positions; and preparing for the Winter 2008 personnel actions.  Gary will also be serving as an external reviewer of the History program at Indiana University at South Bend. Meanwhile, Interim Associate Dean Sherril Soman is working on curricular issues including prerequisite checking by Banner.  She will also work with the University Accreditation and Assessment Officer and the University Assessment Committee to review assessment reports. As for me this month, I'll be working on the College budget, holding my usual 20+ hours of faculty appointments and meetings, interviewing at least 24 job candidates, and working with Sherril on the Assessment materials.  I'm also finishing an encyclopedia entry and, of course, reading and responding to papers from my Argument class.  A new project this month is setting the groundwork for a great Quadrennial Report. As I described to our Unit Heads this week,  a Quadrennial Report will explain our college to the visitors during the accreditation process as well as providing the sort of information about CLAS that will be useful during the upcoming capital campaign.  In addition to the customary facts and figures, we intend to create a report that tells our story through the wonderful achievements of our students and faculty and the innovative projects and practices that define us better than any graph could. And though it is a bit premature, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. Is there a topic you would like to see covered in this faculty newsletter? E-mail suggestions to

Featured Faculty

Behind the Seams

by Monica Johnstone  

A Shakespeare play in period costume-of any period-spells detailed and painstaking work by a team of costumers.  This Fall's opening of Cymbeline, set in the period of the American Civil War, meant Jill Hamilton and Sally Langa worked late into the evening to make the adjustments described in notes taken during dress rehearsals.  In the days leading up to opening night, racks groaned under the weight of the costumes and could not contain the hoop skirts which project into the narrow hallways of the Performing Arts Center.  Jill, a theatre designer and technical director, designs the costumes and Sally manages the costume shop.  Both of their jobs involve management, drawing on years of experience, sourcing of exotic materials, working around space limitations, constant decision-making and a great deal of "hands on" sewing and draping while directing the efforts of many student volunteers. Couturier and quartermaster rolled into one. Jill is also teaching costume construction this term. It is said that costumes are "built".  This is not home sewing.  Thread is rugged and needles are substantial.  The construction of period pieces often involves multiple layers, hefty fasteners, busks and stays.  Edges are piped and finished in removable decorative treatments.  Colors and textures are selected for their properties under stage lighting and in meaningful relation to other costumes.  The future possibilities of each piece are considered and allowed for with wide seams because a costume during its lifetime might have to accommodate actors of dimensions varying from petite to operatic.  During one of the hours I spent with them as a volunteer, Jill worked on a costume while being interviewed by a student and answering questions called in from crew members standing in the doorway.  Jill paused in her work only to consider her answer to the question about her favorite costume in the show.  From her point of view, it isn't easy to decide between the most beautiful gown and the outrageously funny one. It becomes quickly clear that each show has special challenges.  Create a severed head that looks like the actor; label the many pairs of soldiers' uniform pants to avoid confusion; decide whether a ruffle will be necessary to weight a skirt in such a way that it effectively covers the hoop skirt beneath; convince an ingenue to wear her corset; find enough braid to outline a bolero jacket and its yards of matching skirt.  The play goes up, a few mid-run repairs take place and in a twinkling it is bump out.  Soon it is time for fittings to begin for the next cast.  In the costume shop, the show always goes on-and on.