May 19, 2014
For theatre and music major Peter Verhaeghe, '15, and Theatre Department costume designer Amber Cook, blood on a budget was a learning and teaching experience during the spring semester. The two presented a technique for using fabric in place of stage blood at the Costume Commission of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Conference held recently in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Many people took pictures of our poster, including award-winning costume designers and a few who possessed Tony Awards in costume design," said Verhaeghe. "They commented on how our simplistic idea could make a huge positive impact on a show."
The pair developed the idea while doing costume design for Lansing-based theatre company Peppermint Creek. "The budget was next to nothing and the dresses had been borrowed, so there was no way we could use any liquid," Verhaeghe said. "Amber came up with the initial idea for using long strands of silk that could be pulled from the actors' bodies in a stylized manner. The director, Lynn Lammers, and choreographer, Travis Staton-Marrero, loved the idea and we ran with it."
As a result of their conference presentation, Cook has been invited to submit a chapter for the published conference archive. "The USITT Costume Commission archive is a remarkable resource because it is a virtual encyclopedia of ideas and solutions to both common and unusual problems that costume designers encounter. The contributors are internationally based and run the gamut from graduate student to multiaward-winning professional designers, and I'm honored to join their ranks."
Verhaeghe came away from the conference with a variety of useful knowledge. "I learned about the process of molding a human head from silicone," he said. "I also learned how to turn a synthetic wig into dreadlocks, multiple rendering background techniques, stage curtain specifications, and a bit about the theory of color."
Beyond the learning experience, "I was able to do some major networking with graduate schools and graduate school professors. This opportunity has opened quite a few doors for me," Verhaeghe said. "But it also made it that much harder for me to choose just one or two areas of technical theatre to concentrate on in the future."
"One of the reasons I work at Albion as well as freelance professionally is the ability to pass knowledge and experience onto students outside the classroom," Cook concluded. "In this business it's largely about who you know, and I am happy every time I am able to help a student make a connection to someone in the field because it means potential opportunities for them down the road. I learn something new each time I work on a production, and as long as I have students who are interested and motivated like Peter, I will continue to share those experiences with them."
Along with majoring in theatre and music, Peter Verhaeghe is also a member of the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program. He is the son of Alan and Cynthia Verhaeghe of Swartz Creek, Michigan, and a graduate of Swartz Creek High School.