Becky Evans hadn’t even thought about becoming a costume designer. It was one particularly boring class in college that set her off on her career path.
“I went to college at the Savannah College of Arts and Design to study graphic design,” she said. “But I found it boring. The first time I had to take a class that was about nothing but fonts, I was like, I’m done. That was it.”
She had left her home in Nashville to study in Savannah, and once she discovered that she didn’t want to spend her life in selecting the proper fonts, she had to find something else to study.
“I found that SCAD had a costume design program and I decided to check that out,” Evans said.
It didn’t take her long to figure out that costume design was where she belonged.
“I’ve always enjoyed stories and storytelling,” she said. “I was that little girl who always enjoyed dressing up. I’ve always been into clothing. I’m surprised I didn’t discover it earlier. I’m surprised it took me until college.”
For the past three seasons, Evans has been the resident costume designer at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. She has designed and (with the help of volunteer assistants) made all the costumes for all the mainstage musicals that Manatee Players produces.
That could mean hundreds of costumes that Evans has to design and pull together.
People who don’t think to much about such things may assume that all the costumes are built from scratch. That’s not the case, and Evans probably wouldn’t be able to do that in the few weeks she has for each show.
“I work in a costume shop with literally thousands and thousands of costumes,” she said.
It’s a relatively luxurious costume shop, compared to some others in community theater, and even professional theaters, around the the country.
“I even have a window,” Evans said.
The 2017-18 Manatee Players season started this weekend with “The Producers.” That will be Evans’ last show as a member of the company’s staff. She announced Thursday that she has taken a job working in the costumes department of Asolo Repetory Theatre in Sarasota. But she has signed on to design two shows for the Manatee Players this season, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “A Little Night Music.”
A lot of the work of a theatrical costume designer, she said, is “pulling” costumes and pieces of costumes, and then adapting them for a current show. Her second-floor shop at the performing arts center is massive but still crowded with clothes on racks and accessories in plastic bins.
After college she went home to Nashville for about a year, not doing too much that she finds worth mentioning, and then came to this area to take a costuming job with the Venice Theatre. She had contacted Rick Kerby, the producing artistic director for the Manatee Players, about doing occasional work for him. He instead offered her a full-time job. She’s been with the company since the beginning of its second season at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
There are hundreds of costumes in the show, and some of them are what I would call specialty costumes that I have to craft together out of more than just fabrics. It’s been a lot of trying to innovate.
There are distinctive challenges in every show, she said, and each show takes a lot of research. She reads each script several times (“There are some things you just don’t pick up the first time,” she said), she listens to the music, collaborates with the director to realize his or her vision and studies the period to make sure her designs are appropriate. She spends a lot of time online buying such items as vintage shoes.
“Amazon is my best friend,” she said. “Amazon and eBay.”
For “The Producers,” the sheer number of costumes, plus the period details, made it a challenge for Evans, but the kind of challenge she enjoyed.
“There are hundreds of costumes in the show, and some of them are what I would call specialty costumes that I have to craft together out of more than just fabrics. It’s been a lot of trying to innovate and meet the needs of the show.”
Though she’s moving on to Asolo Rep, she’s looking forward to the shows she’ll be designing for Manatee Players later in the season, and especially to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
“I always enjoy the Disney shows,” she said. “Ever since I realized they had put it together into a stage production I’ve wanted to be involved with it. I think it’s going to be beautiful. I love the music. I can’t wait for that one.”
Manatee Players’ 2017-18 season
The season started this weekend with “The Producers.” Here’s the entire season schedule:
Through Aug. 27: “The Producers”
Sept. 14-Oct. 1: “Mame”
Oct. 26-Nov. 12: “A Little Night Music”
Nov. 30-Dec. 18: “Annie”
Jan. 11-28: “Nine”
Feb. 15-March 4: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
March 22-April 8: “Little Women”
April 26-May 13: “Nice Work If You Can Get It”
Aug. 24-Sept. 10: “The Father”
Oct. 12-29: “Anna in the Tropics”
Nov. 30-Dec. 17: “Flowers for Algernon”
Jan. 25-Feb. 11: “Driving Miss Daisy”
March 1-18: “Baby”
April 5-22: “Good”