Trying On

One day in the late ’70s, I was walking past one of the Quonset hut classrooms and heard a theater professor discussing design with her students. I was fascinated, and I stayed for the class. Then I came back for more.

The professor was Deborah Dryden, teaching costume design. Her husband, Dan Dryden, taught scenic design. To put it simply, this husband and wife duo changed my life. After that day, I took all of their classes, designed productions at UCSD, and worked in the costume shop until I graduated in 1978. Before those classes, I could draw and paint, sew and craft, sing, and play piano, yet I never knew that there was a way to combine all of these things I loved into a career.

Following graduation, I worked in the Repertory Theater in Berkeley, Calif., before I felt ready for “the Big Apple.” After earning my graduate degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, I designed sets and costumes for New York theaters big and small for 25 years, then moved all around the country designing for opera, theater, and dance.

To take art “from page to stage” requires people skills, organizational skills, time management, financial savvy, and hard-earned knowledge of the craft. Costume design is one of the hardest, most demanding, and challenging careers—it is also one of the most rewarding artistically. Today, I’m a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, teaching theater design to the next generation. I hope my students see that there are many paths to choose from and that they are free to try on those paths, to sit in on classes until they find what resonates with their hopes and dreams, just as I did in my journey to costume design. A journey that began one day in a little classroom at UC San Diego, thanks to the inspirational guidance of Deborah and Dan Dryden.

—Marie Anne Chiment ’78 is head of costume design for the Department of Theater at Temple University.


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