Magazine article Stage Directions

Dressing Up the Utah Shakespearean Festival

Magazine article Stage Directions

Dressing Up the Utah Shakespearean Festival

Article excerpt

A conversation with costume designer Janet Swenson

Janet L. Swenson is a longtime "working costumer" (that means she gets her hands dirty in the shop) for the Utah Shakespearean Festival. She is also associate chair of Brigham Young University's theatre department and teaches theatre classes. Born in Seattle, she grew up in a Mormon Church where there was a lively "let's put on a show" atmosphere, which laid the groundwork for her future career. But when she entered BYU, she had her sights set on being a history teacher. "One of my school friends showed up to class once and looked liked death warmed over," she recalls. 'Turns out she had just pulled two all-nighters getting an opera ready. I told her I knew how to sew and maybe I could help. I walked into the costume shop and never left."

She would go on to get a history degree, but also a theatre one; then a Master's in Theatre History and finally an MFA in Costume Design. Along the way she would be "discovered" by Fred Adams, founding director of the Utah Shakespearean Festival, which was founded in 1961 and is located in Cedar City.

Stage Directions: What makes a well-costumed show?

Janet Swenson: When it tells the story. My students get mad when they get reviews of their shows and they aren't mentioned. I say that's a compliment! You don't want to be extravagant - unless that is part of the story, like when we did My Fair Lady.

What happens when your vision is drastically different from the director's? Are you disappointed?

No, and I'll tell you why. …

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