William & Mary

W&M theatre’s scene, costume shops settle into temporary homes

  • Technical Director Brian Saxton
    Behind the scenes:  William & Mary Theatre Technical Director Brian Saxton shows off the department's new Scene Shop at the Dillard Complex, which will be used during renovation of Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Scene shop with equipment, tools, cabinets, work area
    Behind the scenes:  William & Mary Theatre's temporary Scene Shop at the Dillard Complex contains all of the work stations needed for the department to teach stagecraft and build sets for its performances.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Tool drawer showing labeled compartments full of wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers
    Behind the scenes:  Tool drawers are organized and labeled to make findings things quick and easy at William & Mary Theatre's temporary Scene Shop at the Dillard Complex.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Sewing machine with pink pincushion full of pins, feathers
    All sewn up:  Professor of Theatre Patricia Wesp '76 discusses the new location in the sewing room of William & Mary Theatre's Costume Shop, which is temporarily being housed in the Galt houses at the Dillard Complex while Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall is being renovated.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Bolts of cloth stored vertically
    All sewn up:  Bolts of cloth are stored in William & Mary Theatre's Costume Shop, which is temporarily being housed in the Galt houses at the Dillard Complex while Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall is being renovated.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Bookshelf full of books on various aspects of costuming
    All sewn up:  Books on various aspects of costuming occupy a shelf in William & Mary Theatre's Costume Shop, which is temporarily being housed in the Galt houses at the Dillard Complex while Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall is being renovated.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Organization has been the key to moving and resetting the massive scene and costume operations that William & Mary theatre uses to teach students and create the university’s productions.

While Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall is being renovated for two to three years, the two operations have been relocated to the nearby Dillard Complex. Classes will continue to be held there this fall, with scenery and costumes created and transported for performances at the Kimball Theatre.

The scene shop is in a newly-constructed building next to the baseball and soccer fields. Brian Saxton, lecturer of theatre and technical director, and Associate Technical Director Megan Hamilton oversaw the packing and relocation of existing scene shop materials as well as installation of new ones.

Rolling storage bins with drawers for many of the tools and hardware were purchased and will go to the new building when it’s ready, according to Saxton. The temporary space contains all the necessary work stations and capabilities for him to teach stagecraft and supervise students building sets.

{{youtube:medium:right|dwTiH_OKEU4, W&M Theatre Scene Shop}}

“It’s our temporary home,” Saxton said. “But it’s very much a state-of-the-art facility. We’ve been well taken care of by the university, so I think the students will have an excellent opportunity to continue their education in a facility that meets all the needs and demands of scenic production.”

Everything is labeled and highly organized according to its function.

“This level of organization is important to what we do and the way we teach students because it teaches students that knowing exactly where tools and materials are located allows us to complete tasks more efficiently, ultimately allowing us to focus more on the details of the scenic design,” Saxton said.

The costume operation is housed at the other end of the Dillard Complex, in a circle of houses.

“It’s been a comfortable space,” said Patricia Wesp ’76, professor of theatre and resident costume designer. “It’s a great house. As a workspace, it has worked out pretty well, I think.”

The costume shop is operating out of two of the Galt houses at the Dillard Complex, with the rest of the stock housed in supplemental storage spaces around town. The Gabriel Galt House is being used for costume storage, while the costume shop itself is set up and operating in the Patrick Galt House, which is located right along the bus line at the intersection of Ironbound Road and Treyburn Drive.

{{youtube:medium:right|fnBYOdtLKiA, W&M Theatre Costume Shop}}

In the shop, the rooms have been set up and equipped for all of the required teaching and costume creation. The first floor contains the sewing area, with a classroom in the dining room space. The kitchen is being used for laundry and crafts, and the garage houses the university’s Costume Study Collection. Upstairs the master bedroom is serving as a cutting room, one bedroom as storage for mannequins and patterns, and the other as a fitting room and fabric storage.

The costume shop is always a busy place, especially when classes are going on at the same time as fittings and sewing for costumes for an upcoming show. Sewing skills are life skills, said Costume Shop Manager Mary Jo O’Shaughnessy, and former students are reminders of that.

“We’re here for the students,” O’Shaughnessy said. “When they come back to us, it feels like we had quite an accomplishment and a meaningful place in people’s lives.”

Everyone involved stressed that theatre is operating temporarily in other locations toward the mission of coming back together in its brand new building, but the teaching and learning are continuing on pace at the different facilities. It also all comes together on stage at each show.

“What we try to focus on at William & Mary is how it comes together to tell the story on stage,” Saxton said.