This spring, Jennifer Ackland was looking for work, having finished up a part-time gig as the costume shop manager at Wake Forest University. And beginning in 2009, she worked about four years as the costume director and the wardrobe supervisor at the financially strapped North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, which suspended operations in summer 2013 and closed the following year.
“It can be harsh in the theatre world,” she said.
Maybe so, but Ackland has gained the kind of experience that employers desire. She credits Appalachian for the foundational training that enabled her to gain several long periods of employment at companies around the state, including Festival Stage of Winston-Salem and Blowing Rock Stage Company, Triad Stage and Aurora Theatre.
Ackland earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts; her concentration was Theatre Design/Technology, which she described as a starting off point for many different directions.
As a costume shop manager for North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, Ackland would design costumes or assist a designer hired for a big show. She got to buy or find or build everything that was required for a show. She’d help build sets or keep track of wardrobe.
Ackland praised her training at Appalachian, saying she not only mastered the basics on campus but got to learn even more through various internships at local theaters.
She also learned how to make costumes for dancers, an unusual skill among costume people in the theater world.
“I will be forever grateful for that,” she said. “Dance costumes are really special because someone has to dance in them. They move differently in them. They’re made out of different materials.”