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Elizabeth Magas '15

Elizabeth Magas '15

Designing a future that fits

Elizabeth Magas’ major in theater and minors in math and English set the stage for her profession in costume design.

“These three areas of study allowed me to approach problems from different angles, creatively and analytically,” says Elizabeth. “They’re perfect for what I do now.”

Since graduating from Union, the Colorado Springs native has kept busy working with several acclaimed theater companies. She has also plied her trade alongside top designers, including Paul Tazewell of “Hamilton” fame and Tony Award-winning costume designer Paloma Young.

“I have always been fascinated by the transformative and expressive nature of clothing,” she says. “It’s my job to help the director and actors bring a play to life through costuming. When I read a script, I immediately think, ‘What does this character look like at this point in time? What’s the best way for me to communicate to the audience through attire who this person is?”

Elizabeth got involved in Union theater her first year on campus, appearing in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” with Mountebanks, the century-old student-run performing group.

“It was easy to jump right in and feel a part of things pretty quickly,” she says.

She applied her costume and performance skills to nearly a dozen shows put on by the Department of Theater and Dance, including Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Eugéne Ionesco’s “Rhino.”

She was Mountebanks’ resident costume designer for two years, and while serving as president her senior year, she oversaw a cast and crew of 16 as director of “Spring Awakening.”

“Union gave me a lot of opportunities to shape and explore my interests – through performances, research, independent study, even my work-study job in the Costume Department,” she says.  

Taking Shakespeare courses was, not surprisingly, helpful for Elizabeth’s career in the theater. But in a field that relies heavily on practical techniques, math also played a major role.

“Understanding numbers and space is critical to making clothes for different bodies,” Elizabeth says. “Measuring, or draping, a pattern is pretty much all geometry. And Calculus 3 was fantastic, as we spent a lot of time on graphs of three variable equations. I enjoyed seeing how numbers could create beautiful shapes and designs, and it I think it helped my drawing skills.”

After graduation, Elizabeth was a costume resident at the noted Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn. At the end of that year, the theater mounted a world premiere of the musical “My Paris” about the life and times of the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

“It was a big Moulin Rouge-esque extravaganza, designed by Paul Tazewell. We were a small team working on a grand scale within very tight deadlines. But it was great to be in the same working space as Mr. Tazewell and to help realize his designs, especially since the following year, I took a second job working on costumes for the women’s ensemble of the “Hamilton” tour before it went to Broadway.”

Elizabeth was hired as a first hand for Long Wharf’s 2016-17 season. The following winter, she worked for the Lenox, Mass.-based Shakespeare and Company’s Northeast tour of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where she was responsible for creating about 25 full costumes for 18 distinct characters.

In fall 2017, Elizabeth returned to Union’s Theater Department as interim head of the costume shop during costumer Britney Belz’s maternity leave. She oversaw production of 17th century Spanish costumes for “The Hunchback of Seville.”

In the costume shop in the Henle Dance Pavilion, just steps away from the offices of faculty mentors Patsy Culbert and William Finlay, she felt right at home.

“From day one during my time at Union, I worked closely with Patsy and Bill. By the time I graduated, they’d helped shape my growth as a student and an artist,” Elizabeth says. “When I left Union, I had the confidence, the skills and the desire to push ahead with my dream job.”