Arts and EntertainmentWho? What? Wear? of Trinity

Theatre Department costume designer speaks about career, recent McNay exhibit
Rachel PoovathoorFebruary 7, 2019292 min
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Photo by Genevieve Humphreys

“It’s very easy for people to see people who design costumes as ‘She’s just a woman who sews,’ ” said Jodi Karjala, the costume designer and costumer for the Department of Human Communication and Theatre at Trinity.

Karjala has been at Trinity since 2000. She currently teaches Costume Design, Costume Construction, History of Fashion, Stage Management and Make-up Design.

Karjala was recently included in a comedy exhibit at the McNay Museum.

“It’s exciting. It’s a little surreal. It’s a little weird,” Karjala said. “What’s so exciting about the McNay is that there’s an entire wing dedicated to theatre and the art of designers.”

The physical costumes and photographs of Karjala’s work from a Trinity production of Servant of Two Masters, directed by Roberto Prestigiacomo, were included as part of this exhibit. The production featured costumes of Commedia dell’arte, which is an early form of theatre originating from Italy.

A large part of what Karjala does at Trinity is teaching students how to design costumes for shows.

“In order to design a show, I usually require students to take the Costume Design class. And there’s a lot of text analysis involved,” Karjala said. “For example, ‘Who are these [characters], what are the circumstances of their situation?’ ”

Karjala pushes students to think unlike what they’re used to.

“Design is creative and logistical. So I help students think more creatively or more logistically, depending on how they talk about the show or how they think,” Karjala said.

Apart from designing Trinity shows, Karjala also designs for other companies in San Antonio.

“I mostly design for [The] Classic Theatre,” Karjala said. “I’ve designed 15 shows for them.”

Karjala designs a range of different costumes but enjoys creating costumes that fall into the category of “vague.”

“I do everything, but what I do best is what’s called “vague period” which is sort of a riff on a time period,” Karjala said.

Though some productions call for specific period costumes, many times they are not set in specific time periods, so fashion trends and material choices can blend to create “vague” designs.

“I enjoy riffing on a time period, so it looks sort-of modern, sort-of timeless,” Karjala said.

For example, Karjala designed costumes for a production of “Twelfth Night” at Trinity which was “vaguely 1870” and “vaguely steampunk.”

Hillary Everts, assistant director of admissions and Trinity alumna, talked about her time working under Karjala as a costume design student.

“Her ability to do things collaboratively, like with the McNay, where she puts all this time and energy into historical costume research and design and then world-renowned museums reach out and say, ‘Hey, we want to feature this,’ is really cool,” Everts said.

“It sort of amplifies that it’s more than just a costume. It’s more than something that someone will wear for two weeks in a run of a show. It can have so much significance and impact,” Everts said.

Everts enjoyed working for Karjala during her time as a Trinity student.

“Jodi is an incredible teacher. She sort of gives you everything you need to know, and she will just give you enough to think critically about it. She will never hand you the answer on a platter,” Everts said.

Emma Frieze, a junior Theatre major, currently works with Karjala as stage manager and co-designer for the “The Wolves” production.

“It is really cool. She’s worked on so many different things and she’s so talented, it doesn’t surprise me,” Frieze said.

Frieze also commented on how seeing Karjala succeed in her creative field makes her less afraid of being a Theatre major.

“I definitely had fears of going into the arts when I got here. Seeing Jodi and seeing her career…I can’t be worried anymore. She’s so successful,” Frieze said.

“One of my favorite things that Jodi tends to say whenever I was a student in her studio was, ‘Look at that! You made that!’ When Jodi told you ‘look at that you made something,’ that was a really big deal,” Everts said.

Stop by the McNay to see Karjala’s designs in the exhibit “LOL: The Art of Stage Comedy,” which runs until Feb. 17, 2019.

For more coverage of the costume studio, check out Elise Hester’s video.

Rachel Poovathoor

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