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In May, 2020 Chloe Chapin (Harvard) and Christianne Myers (University of Michigan) co-led a workshop, ReDressing the Narrative, investigating a new way to teach Costume History within a theatre design curriculum. Chloe had heard an urgent need from costume history teachers to disrupt the Euro-centered “parade of fashion” we all learned but were struggling to re-envision another way. When more than 60 participants gathered, an enormous sense of community slacked a desperate thirst for connection with other costume educators (many of whom expressed frustration with misunderstanding and a lack of agency within their institutions). 

In 2021, the conversation continued, again led by Chloe, this time in collaboration with Maile Speejens (University of Hawaii) and Sydney Maresca (Bard), with help from Raven Ong (Central Connecticut State), Val Ramshur (Rutgers), and Jenn Jacobs (Tulane). ReDressing the Narrative 2 identified leadership skills and set future goals. With seed funding secured by Christianne through the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Michelle Lui Carriger shared a keynote address and led a discussion and shared strategies to help navigate classroom discussions on culture and cultural appropriation.

We are on the cusp of a sea-change: imagine a discipline and profession that fosters inclusivity, sharing, and generosity of spirit. There is a need to address pay inequity, embedded exclusive, sexist, and racist practices, body-shaming, and a host of other issues that often lead to a sense of isolation, a work-life imbalance, and toxic production environments in the profession. Collectively, we must re-examine the terminology we use, foster deeper connections, and amplify the work of highly skilled artisans, designers and technicians. For far too long, educational theater has taken its cues from industry best-practices; now through research, scholarship and thoughtful collaboration, educators can be change agents themselves and help move our industry into the new age.

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