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Faculty spotlight: Ameera Ansari tailors to students

Ameera Ansari stands in her home away from home, the Freed Center's costume shop. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Ameera Ansari stands in her home away from home, the Freed Center's costume shop. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Ameera Ansari has had her fair share of experiences with theatrical costumes. But rather than wearing the wardrobes while performing on stage, she designs them.

As costume shop manager and resident designer for Ohio Northern University’s Department of Theatre Arts, Ansari plays an important behind-the-scenes role in each Freed Center production.  

“Art is a collaboration of ideas. My job is to support the designs instilled by the directors,” she said during a recent interview.

Ansari enjoys her role in the creative process involved in theatrical productions, and enjoys seeing how the costumes, makeup, set design, acting and direction all accentuate the playwright’s script.

Her role begins shortly after each play is chosen. She then works with the show’s director to decide the best costume design. Areas under consideration for each production: the number of male and female characters, ages of each character, the number possible costume changes, the era depicted in the show and the costume budget.

“I look at each show from the designer’s point of view,” she explained. “There are important realistic things to consider. Can we make the desired costumes within the production schedule? Can we create the costumes within the show’s budget? Should we make the costumes from scratch or rent them?”

Ansari became an important part of ONU student theatrical productions two-and-a-half years ago. She learned the craft of creating costumes and makeup, along with wig making, while earning a master's degree in fine arts, specializing in costume design, from Illinois State University. After earning her degree she worked as a wigs and makeup artisan for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, as well as performing freelance costume design work for college productions before she arrived at Ohio Northern.

Now, Ansari is passing along her skills to others. She is currently mentoring junior theater major Monica Westbrooks in a senior capstone project to create practical wigs for the university’s 2016-17 dramatic arts season.

Later, she added, “When my students are comfortable enough to work on their own, I allow them. We’re training them to become professionals, and, as their mentor and professor, it’s my responsibility to give them every opportunity to learn.”

Those learning experiences sometime include last-minute costume changes. That’s what happened with this year’s ONU Holiday Spectacular show, when several brightly colored costumes featuring 1950’s fashion designs were added. Then, there’s the wigs Ansari has had to fix at 11:30 p.m. during dress rehearsals on the week of each show.

In each of these cases there’s always someone available to hand Ansari a safety pin.

This level of commitment is what audiences don’t see as they enjoy Freed Center productions. Sometimes, as Ansari attests, all you need is a little faith, trust and pixie dust from her costume shop to make the show a thrilling experience.

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The Northern Review will be writing a series of features on various faculty members involved in Ohio Northern University's Department of Theatre Arts. For more information, contact Kasy Long at k-long.2@onu.edu or northern-review@onu.edu

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