(td)squared Blog

Learn about what we’re doing, learning, and discovering as technical theatre students at the University at Buffalo.

Prepared to Disagree

After accepting the position of Musical Composer for Road to Glory, I began researching ranchero guitar styles, typical chord progressions, and popular musical themes within the style. I came up with many samples that I and the director agreed upon. What I forgot about theatre is that it is constantly malleable and when something works for the show one week, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for the show the next week. After getting my heart set on the music I composed, much of it was changed or cut during tech. While I knew I was going to learn a lot about guitar music, composition, and theory, I hadn’t expected learning so much being open to change and having back up plans.

Unification with Individuality

This semester was a change of pace from previous semesters and costuming work that I’ve done.  Instead of costuming the production of a play, I am costuming a dance production with ten individual dance pieces.

With there being ten unique and individual pieces within this show, (and with one of these pieces being a repeated performance with previously designed costumes) my main objective was to create a unified complete performance through the costumes.  Through discussions with the nine choreographers, I decided the unifying element would be the color palette and the concept of layers, with each of the costumes being layered in some aspect; either through color blocking, paint, or physical costume layers being included.  Through this connection, all pieces keep their individuality, but are unified as a whole production.


The below pictures are examples of the final costumes for the Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase.  All pictures are taken by myself (Rachel Maggs).



Aging metal through paint

So for Road to Glory the majority of the props needed to look worn and aged.  Through trial and error I found that for metals you need to first apply a base coat, I used spray paint, to the metal so the actual coat of paint won’t chip off.  Next, you use sponges and a variety a watered down version of the colors you need to give the metal the proper texture and look.  Finally you apply a clear layer to add protection to your paint and that is how you age metal through paint.

Design and Research

After accepting my role as Costume Designer for The Threepenny Opera , I could not have imagined the amount of work that would have to be done before even meeting the director. Because of communication problems over the summer, I was not able to contact the director and get a starting ground as to where the director was envisioning. Because of this, my summer led to researching for three different time periods.

Thinking my research was only for me, little did I know that I would need my research images to communicate to the shop, not just my renderings. Maybe that was silly of me, but I honestly didn’t think twice about it. After starting costume fittings, it was easier to show research images along with my renderings to better help communicate my ideas to the shop.

One set of my renderings now includes research images on the same page as the rendering along with notes. This method worked great because when I was not in the shop I was able to leave my ideas with the shop manager and my assistant to pull things for me to look at.


Research is the key to design and communication!

Design and Tech Major: The Outsider Reaction

When people ask me what my major is and I reply “I’m a BFA Design and Tech Theatre major” and tell them what I do, I always get one of two reactions.  They are either truly intrigued and want to know more about my major and why I chose it or think im wasting tens of thousands of dollars and years of my life.  When I first decided that this was the path that I had wanted to take, my parents were supportive but only just.  One of the first things my father had asked was “Is that a real major?”  As time passed, they realized just how much time I spent in the theatre in high school and the massive amounts of work I did not just the week before the show but the months leading up to opening night. Now they understand that yes it is areal major, and yes sometimes I have more work that premed students!


However, as the first semester comes to a close, I am more and more confident every day that i made the right decision and I look forward to being the lead designer (as opposed to assistant designer) on my first show here at UB

A Chance to Design

So, going into being a costume assistant i had no idea what i was getting myself into, and to be honest, it scared me senseless.  But, i was determined to learn everything i could.  At the beginning i was skittish and barely knew what to do, but Aly helped me feel less scared.

I really felt like someone believed in me, and i feel like that was really helpful in my decision to pursue a career in costume design, it also gave me the courage to do so. Being an assistant is one experience i would never give up for anything.

The most important lesson i learned was that sometimes people just need to bounce their ideas off of you, and sometimes you are allowed to have an opinion.

Theatre Design: What a Major

As some of you may know, this is my first semester fully immersed in the theater world. It has been a challenging and very exciting semester so far, and I feel that I have learned a tremendous amount in such a short period of time.

Just a year ago I was very ignorant to what theater majors did. I assumed that theater majors were just dancers and actors and that lighting design meant flipping a few switches. I was sadly mistaken. The classes that I am taking now, particularly set and lighting design are some of the most interesting classes that I have ever taken. They require a lot of skills that clearly take a lot of time and effort to develop. But the thing that shocked me the most is how much time outside of class is spent in the drafting studio, theaters and the shop.

This semester I was Asst. Set Designer and Props Master for the Threepenny Opera. In the beginning I was a little confused and therefore behind on things that I had to do. But with out this experience I would not have understood how everything in our classes comes together in the theater. I am beginning to understand that it is okay to ask for help and develop a relationship with my professors. It helped me understand the pace, time, effort and beauty put in to making art.

I feel that through this semester I have gained an unbelievable amount of respect for the theater design and technology people in this world.


While helping to paint the set for Three Penny Opera I learned a new painting technique called scumble. It is a three person operation where each person has their own paint roller. Two people had two different colors and the last person was water. The two people with colors would work together on a section of the flat alternating their colors using short strokes of paint. The person on water would go over the two colors blending them together. To create the look of bricks on the flat a sponge glued to a piece of wood was used like a stamp and went over the scumble.


From plastic to porcelain through paint

For Road to Glory the setting was 1930 Mexico, from in a town to a small village in the forest.  For this show the challenge for props was making sure all of the props weren’t brand new, while keeping in line with the rest of the designers’ choices.  Nothing could have the look of cleanliness or be sheik, yet it all had to be functional.  The challenge was met with a variety of painting techniques, from sponging to brushes and spray paint.  A completely plastic baby doll transformed into a porcelain doll that a little girl made an outfit for.  This was done by initially spray painting the doll so the other types of paint would be able to adhere correctly to the doll.  Then multiple layers of paint were applied to give a nice even surface.  Afterwards, the face got painted onto the doll, and the clothes sewn directly onto the figure.  When the clothing was on, a mustache turned into the dolls hair by clever placement and hot glue.  Finally a poncho with frayed edges was added to complete the desired look.

Learning to be an Assistant Costume Designer

To say that I was thrown into the deep end of theater might be an understatement. When I was approached to be the assistant costume designer for “Road to Glory”, I didn’t expect to be attending design class two days later and production meetings two weeks later.

As someone who has never been an official designer or assistant before, the only thing I could do was to just go.

Being a new freshman to UB as well as costume design made finding even the wardrobe a little daunting, but the best thing to do is to ask questions. Asking faculty and upperclassmen is the easiest way to not be completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Showing up in the morning to sew labels and being sent to stain shirts is my experience in a nutshell. Right under “asking questions” is learning to listen. Being able to figure out what notes/tasks are for the costume designer to do versus the costume shop or me is something learned through experience but becomes easier. Separating notes is an organizational skill that has turned into an instinct.

As the weeks have gone by, I now feel comfortable in my ability to help the costume designer in her work. Yes, there is plenty more to learn. But right now, I have figured out the line between waiting for directions and taking initiative so that costumes get labeled, organized and ready for performance while keeping the costume designer as stress-free as possible.