Savannah Cathers laughs while sewing costumes for a production of "Monstrous Regiment" in the Brenau University Costume Shop by the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, a partnership between Brenau and the University of North Georgia. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Savannah Cathers laughs while sewing costumes for a production of "Monstrous Regiment" in the Brenau University Costume Shop by the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, a partnership between Brenau and the University of North Georgia. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau Adds Coveted Degree Program in Costuming for Film and Theater

Jan. 31, 2018
Kristen Bowman
Alyssa Eblen works on sewing costumes for a production of "Monstrous Regiment" in the Brenau University Costume Shop by the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, a partnership between Brenau and the University of North Georgia. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Alyssa Eblen works on sewing costumes for a production of “Monstrous Regiment” in the Brenau University Costume Shop by the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, a partnership between Brenau and the University of North Georgia. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Beginning in fall 2018, Brenau University will offer a degree program in costuming for film and theater, which professors and students say is perfectly tailored to the university’s abilities and Georgia’s growing film industry.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges acknowledged that the new program does not require a protracted approval process and can begin operations as planned because it is built around courses that already exist in the BFA curriculum in theater technology and design, as well as in the BFA in fashion design.

Pamela Workman, assistant professor of theater and resident costume designer, said there will also be some new courses added.

“We’ve opened a computer lab that is solely for fashion and costume students, and the computers have software that is only relevant to pattern making and how to construct costumes through a specific program,” Workman said. “We also have a huge scanner and printer in there that we’ll be able to print the patterns off so they are lifesize. We can then use those to build a garment.”

The new design laboratory was made possible by Brenau alumna and trustee Antonina Grib Lerch. Lerch is well known for her career in costuming in Hollywood, involving work on TV shows like “Mad Men,” “Dexter” and “True Blood,” as well as movies such as “Night at the Museum II” (2009) and “Star Trek” (2009). During her collegiate years at Brenau, she worked with the Gainesville Theatre Alliance as a costumer. She often returns to teach master classes in costuming and shares what she has learned with Brenau students.

Lerch is not the only notable Brenau alumna turned costume designer. Janie Bryant, a 1985 Brenau Academy graduate who attended the Women’s College for a year, is an Emmy Award-winning costume designer for the celebrated HBO television series “Deadwood.” She is best known for her highly acclaimed work on “Mad Men,” which led her to design a line of clothing inspired by the series for Banana Republic. She most recently worked on the highly anticipated remake of Stephen King’s “It.”

Workman said Brenau also plans to add a course specifically in costuming for film, given the university’s proximity to Atlanta, which has become a national hub for the film industry.

“I like seeing the way the costumes are going to look on the actor,” said Mae Allison, a theater major with an emphasis in musical theater. “As an actor myself, I love to see the way a garment has been constructed before I perform in it. Our costumes are honestly amazing. The quality is professional. These are costumes that really stay together and look great on stage.”

Workman agreed, saying Brenau has “one of the best-stocked costume shops in Georgia.”

“Our equipment is modern and up-to-date. We have the latest technology, and now we have the new computer lab with that software,” she said. “When my costumers go out into the industry, they are above the bar as far as their skill level.”

Sophomore theater major Alyssa Eblen said her grandmother first taught her to sew, but she has learned advanced techniques in two years at Brenau.

“I really like learning learning about the construction,” Eblen said. “I always liked to sew when I was a kid, but coming here and learning how to really do it properly is wonderful. My emphasis in my major is directing, which means I need to have a little know-how in everything. And costumes are definitely what I understand best. I think that’s really going to help me in the long run.”

Workman said her current students in the Gainesville Theatre Alliance – a collaboration with the University of North Georgia – have a lot of interest in the new program, including those students currently enrolled at UNG. “Some of the courses in this new degree program will also be open to them as current costume students,” she said.

Workman has big hopes for the growth of the new program. Ideally she would like to expand the shop’s storage on campus, enabling the program to operate a costume rental program.

“We could rent out to other theater companies and departments, because we do have such great stock here,” she said. “Since I arrived and our new costume shop supervisor Aimee Johnson came on board in 2016, our students’ skill level has grown greatly and their work is truly credible.”

General inquiries: info@brenau.edu, +1-770-534-6299 or +1-800-252-5119 | Admissions: admissions@brenau.edu, +1-770-534-6100 or +1-800-252-5119 ext. 6100