Costume Design as Moving Sculpture

<p>Laura Crow, professor of Dramatic Arts, at the costume shop at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Peter Morenus</p>
Laura Crow, professor of dramatic arts, at the costume shop at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Peter Morenus

Laura Crow wears many hats as a professor of costume design in the Department of Dramatic Arts in the School of Fine Arts, combining interests as seemingly diverse as anthropology, history, sociology, and forensic science.

“What interests me about costume design is that I consider it moving sculpture,” says Crow, who received the 2010 UConn Alumni Association Faculty Excellence in Research Award in the Humanities/Social Sciences. “I like doing research into the society, the manners and the physicality of the characters represented in the plays.”

A product of the socially turbulent 1960s, Crow studied under some of the profession’s noted stars. While earning a bachelor of fine arts degree at Boston University, she was guided by Horace Armistead, former resident designer for the Metropolitan Opera, and costume designer Maureen Heneghan Tripp. “She was brilliant,” Crow says, “and from her I learned how to research backwards and forwards.”

Crow pursued a master of fine arts at the University of Wisconsin so that she could study with John Ezell, one of contemporary theater’s most influential scenic designers. “He taught me to dream and not be restricted by what is considered possible,” she says.

When she was still in her 20s, one of her stops was the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. There, she took a course in art history that focused on forgery. Crow says, “If you study costumes in depth, you can generally date a painting to within six months of the date it was created. One of the quickest ways of discovering whether something is a forgery is to study how the clothing is painted.”

Crow went on to work on plays in the West End, London’s equivalent of Broadway, before returning to the United States to a theater company in Chicago, where she worked on the production of “WARP,” a show she describes as “comic book science fiction.” Even though the play closed soon after it moved to Broadway, Crow won a Drama Desk Award for best costume design for her first-ever New York City production.

The accolades didn’t stop there, and over the years she has been recognized for her work both on and off Broadway and in many regional theaters. Among the honors she has earned are the Drama Desk, Obie, Villager, American Theater Wing, and Maharam Awards (New York); Dramalogue and Back Stage West Garland Award (Los Angeles); Bay Area Critics Award (San Francisco); and the Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago).

During her 13-year tenure as resident costume designer for the famed Circle Rep Theatre in New York City, she was instrumental in creating a new design aesthetic for the theater called Poetic realism. In describing it she says, “Poetic realism takes a play that is realistic and pushes the aesthetic through lush detail and controlled color to create something that has a heightened reality.”

Marshall Mason, founder of Circle Rep, says that Crow has made important contributions both as an expert in the area of fabrics and as an historian. According to Mason, “Laura Crow is truly a 21st-century artist, utilizing technology to advance knowledge and research, while maintaining her personal influence on students and artists with whom she comes in contact. In my mind, she virtually defines a ‘Distinguished Professor.’”

Since joining UConn’s fine arts department in 1994, Crow has introduced many design students to professional theater. In her nomination letter to the UConn Alumni Association Awards Committee, Karen S. Ryker, professor of dramatic arts, said about her colleague, “She engages on a personal level and readily shares her extensive knowledge and interest in many fields … she encourages [students] to think creatively and to generate new projects such as the most recent World Stage Design project in Korea, which won acclaim for UConn’s design and puppetry programs.”

The recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Fellowship, Crow studied the multicultural aspects of Filipino festival dress during a sabbatical in the Philippines in 2002. She has also brought her love of multiculturalism into the classroom through her recruitment of international designers into the Master of Fine Arts Program in costume design.

As head of the International Costume Working Group within the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Technicians, she has visited more than a dozen countries to work with theater artists. The group will next meet in the Czech Republic in June for the Prague Quadrennial, a gathering of leading designers from 60 countries around the world.

This article was published in the Spring 2011 edition of UCONN Magazine.

Laura Crow wears many hats as a
professor of costume design in the
Department of Dramatic Arts in the
School of Fine Arts, combining interests as
seemingly diverse as anthropology, history,
sociology and forensic science.
“What interests me about costume
design is that I consider it moving
sculpture,” says Crow, who received the
2010 UConn Alumni Association Faculty
Excellence in Research Award in the
Humanities/Social Sciences. “I like doing
research into the society, the manners and
the physicality of the characters represented
in the plays.”
A product of the socially turbulent
1960s, Crow studied under some of the
profession’s noted stars. While earning
a bachelor of fine arts degree at Boston
University, she was guided by Horace
Armistead, former resident designer for
the Metropolitan Opera, and costume
designer Maureen Heneghan Tripp.
“She was brilliant,” Crow says, “and from
her I learned how to research backwards
and forwards.”
Crow pursued an M.F.A. at the
University of Wisconsin so that she could
study with John Ezell, one of contemporary
theater’s most influential scenic designers.
“He taught me to dream and not be
restricted by what is considered possible,”
she says.
When she was still in her 20s, one of
her stops was the Courtauld Institute of
Art at the University of London. There, she
took a course in art history that focused on
forgery. Crow says, “If you study costumes
in depth you can generally date a painting
to within six months of the date it
was created. One of the quickest ways of
discovering whether something is a forgery
is to study how the clothing is painted.”
Crow went on to work on plays in
the West End, London’s equivalent of
Broadway, before returning to the United
States to a theater company in Chicago,
where she worked on the production of
“WARP,” a show she describes as “comic
book science fiction.” Even though the play
closed soon after it moved to Broadway,
Crow won a Drama Desk Award for best
costume design for her first-ever New York
City production.
The accolades didn’t stop there, and
over the years she has been recognized for
her work both on and off Broadway and in
many regional theaters. Among the honors
she has earned are the Drama Desk, Obie,
Villager, American Theater Wing and
Maharam Awards (New York); Dramalogue
and Back Stage West Garland Award (Los
Angeles); Bay Area Critics Award (San
Francisco) and the Joseph Jefferson Award
(Chicago).
During her 13-year tenure as resident
costume designer for the famed Circle Rep
Theatre in New York City, she was instrumental
in creating a new design aesthetic
PETER MORENUS
SPRING 2011 19
for the theater called Poetic realism. In
describing it she says, “Poetic realism
takes a play that is realistic and pushes the
aesthetic through lush detail and controlled
color to create something that has a heightened
reality.”
Marshall Mason, founder of Circle
Rep, says that Crow has made important
contributions both as an expert in the area
of fabrics and as an historian. According to
Mason, “Laura Crow is truly a 21st-century
artist, utilizing technology to advance
knowledge and research, while maintaining
her personal influence on students
and artists with whom she comes in
contact. In my mind, she virtually defines a
‘Distinguished Professor.’ ”
Since joining UConn’s fine arts department
in 1994, Crow has introduced many
design students to professional theater.
In her nomination letter to the UConn
Alumni Association Awards Committee,
Karen S. Ryker, professor of dramatic arts,
said about her colleague, “She engages on a
personal level and readily shares her extensive
knowledge and interest in many fields
… she encourages them [sic] to think creatively
and to generate new projects such as
the most recent World Stage Design project
in Korea, which won acclaim for UConn’s
design and puppetry programs.”
The recipient of a Fulbright Senior
Scholar Research Fellowship, Crow studied
the multicultural aspects of Filipino festival
dress during a sabbatical in the Philippines
in 2002. She has also brought her love of
multiculturalism into the classroom
through her recruitment of international designers
into the Master of Fine Arts Program
in costume design.
As head of the International Costume
Working Group within the International
Organization of Scenographers, Theatre
Architects and Technicians (OISTAT), she
has visited more than a dozen countries to
work with theater artists. The group will
next meet in the Czech Republic in June
for the Prague Quadrennial, a gathering
of leading designers from 60 countries
around the world.Laura Crow wears many hats as a
professor of costume design in the
Department of Dramatic Arts in the
School of Fine Arts, combining interests as
seemingly diverse as anthropology, history,
sociology and forensic science.
“What interests me about costume
design is that I consider it moving
sculpture,” says Crow, who received the
2010 UConn Alumni Association Faculty
Excellence in Research Award in the
Humanities/Social Sciences. “I like doing
research into the society, the manners and
the physicality of the characters represented
in the plays.”
A product of the socially turbulent
1960s, Crow studied under some of the
profession’s noted stars. While earning
a bachelor of fine arts degree at Boston
University, she was guided by Horace
Armistead, former resident designer for
the Metropolitan Opera, and costume
designer Maureen Heneghan Tripp.
“She was brilliant,” Crow says, “and from
her I learned how to research backwards
and forwards.”
Crow pursued an M.F.A. at the
University of Wisconsin so that she could
study with John Ezell, one of contemporary
theater’s most influential scenic designers.
“He taught me to dream and not be
restricted by what is considered possible,”
she says.
When she was still in her 20s, one of
her stops was the Courtauld Institute of
Art at the University of London. There, she
took a course in art history that focused on
forgery. Crow says, “If you study costumes
in depth you can generally date a painting
to within six months of the date it
was created. One of the quickest ways of
discovering whether something is a forgery
is to study how the clothing is painted.”
Crow went on to work on plays in
the West End, London’s equivalent of
Broadway, before returning to the United
States to a theater company in Chicago,
where she worked on the production of
“WARP,” a show she describes as “comic
book science fiction.” Even though the play
closed soon after it moved to Broadway,
Crow won a Drama Desk Award for best
costume design for her first-ever New York
City production.
The accolades didn’t stop there, and
over the years she has been recognized for
her work both on and off Broadway and in
many regional theaters. Among the honors
she has earned are the Drama Desk, Obie,
Villager, American Theater Wing and
Maharam Awards (New York); Dramalogue
and Back Stage West Garland Award (Los
Angeles); Bay Area Critics Award (San
Francisco) and the Joseph Jefferson Award
(Chicago).
During her 13-year tenure as resident
costume designer for the famed Circle Rep
Theatre in New York City, she was instrumental
in creating a new design aesthetic
PETER MORENUS
SPRING 2011 19
for the theater called Poetic realism. In
describing it she says, “Poetic realism
takes a play that is realistic and pushes the
aesthetic through lush detail and controlled
color to create something that has a heightened
reality.”
Marshall Mason, founder of Circle
Rep, says that Crow has made important
contributions both as an expert in the area
of fabrics and as an historian. According to
Mason, “Laura Crow is truly a 21st-century
artist, utilizing technology to advance
knowledge and research, while maintaining
her personal influence on students
and artists with whom she comes in
contact. In my mind, she virtually defines a
‘Distinguished Professor.’ ”
Since joining UConn’s fine arts department
in 1994, Crow has introduced many
design students to professional theater.
In her nomination letter to the UConn
Alumni Association Awards Committee,
Karen S. Ryker, professor of dramatic arts,
said about her colleague, “She engages on a
personal level and readily shares her extensive
knowledge and interest in many fields
… she encourages them [sic] to think creatively
and to generate new projects such as
the most recent World Stage Design project
in Korea, which won acclaim for UConn’s
design and puppetry programs.”
The recipient of a Fulbright Senior
Scholar Research Fellowship, Crow studied
the multicultural aspects of Filipino festival
dress during a sabbatical in the Philippines
in 2002. She has also brought her love of
multiculturalism into the classroom
through her recruitment of international designers
into the Master of Fine Arts Program
in costume design.
As head of the International Costume
Working Group within the International
Organization of Scenographers, Theatre
Architects and Technicians (OISTAT), she
has visited more than a dozen countries to
work with theater artists. The group will
next meet in the Czech Republic in June
for the Prague Quadrennial, a gathering
of leading designers from 60 countries
around the world.