Adapting over time

Vanessa Garcia | The Ranger An Amarillo College theater department costume hat resides in the department’s house, which contains a large quantity of costumes.

By KAYTLYN HUERTA
Ranger Reporter

There are not many secrets left at Amarillo College. However, the AC theater department costume house is a lesser-known oddity at the school.

Vanessa Garcia | The Ranger (right) Sewing machines are used by theater majors to help them learn how to create costumes for theater productions.
Vanessa Garcia | The Ranger
(right) Sewing machines are used by theater majors to help them learn how to create costumes for theater productions.

AC has had a theater program since 1973, but students did not always have a formal place to build and store their costumes.

“When I was a student from ’88 to ’90, there was not a place to construct, clean or build. We just didn’t have any place to go,” said Ray Newburg, a theater arts assistant professor.

The department started storing its costumes in a storage facility in downtown Amarillo. When AC suggested that they stay there, concerns for proper storage conditions arose. Costumes need heating and air conditioning to avoid dry rot, sun bleaching and dirt.

“Over the years we learned we can’t have just any old space,” Newburg said.

In 1997, when the Experimental Theatre was built, the original designs called for a costume house. Unfortunately, the budget did not allow for it.

After plans for the connected costume house had been revised, the department was given several houses over the years to store and build their costumes. The first two houses that the costumes were stored in eventually became parking lots for the school.

The costume house was moved to its current location, 2220 Harrison St., in 2008.

“We basically took a house and it is now our storage and construction area,” Newburg said. “We came in here and attacked it. We’ve done this at every house that we’ve had. Every house is different, so we’ve just had to adapt and see how it’s all going to fit.”

Department faculty members have turned every room in the house into a different work area. The living room now is a cutting room, the dining room is a craft area and the bedrooms are divided into storage for modern and period clothing.
“We’ve utilized every inch of space we can,” Newburg said.

The house is more than just a storage area. It also is a classroom.

“I teach Introduction to Costuming in the fall,” Newburg said. “I teach people how to sew and to design costumes.”

With all the activities happening in the house, many students are learning what will help them further down the line in their careers.

“It’s a good experience to see how costume shops are run and what goes into it,” theater major Elizabeth McKenzie said.

“We try to make sure our students walk away knowing how to do anything,” Newburg said.

Vanessa Garcia | The Ranger (left) A wide selection of costume shoes is shelved in one of the closets at the theater department costume house.
Vanessa Garcia | The Ranger
(left) A wide selection of costume shoes is shelved in one of the closets at the theater department costume house.

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