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Trash to treasure garners prestigious theatre scholarship

Emily Taylor’s innovative designs on display starting tonight for opening of ‘The Nether’ at Burtness Lab Theater

Emily Taylor
Emily Taylor shows off her “lace” collar that she made out of a bicycle tire inner tube. Taylor, a UND Theatre Arts master’s degree student, used her “trash to treasure” style to win a prestigious scholarship to a stagecraft school in Las Vegas. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.


UND Theatre Department to perform “The Nether,” starting tonight 

What: The Nether – by Jennifer Haley

Tickets: $15 for Adults and $5 for Students. Box Office: 701-777-2587

Where: Burtness Laboratory Theater on the UND Campus

When:  Feb. 21 – 25 at 7:30 p.m., nightly

Costumes: Designed by UND master’s degree student Emily Taylor

The Story:

Transforming trash to treasure has earned Emily Taylor a trip to the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.

She’s the first person from North Dakota to receive the scholarship.

Taylor was one of 17 UND theatre arts students who recently traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival recently. They won several competitions and awards, and Taylor was one of seven designers from the seven-state region to be awarded a week-long scholarship to the Stagecraft Institute.

Taylor, a theatre master’s student from Bozeman, Mont., crafted a “lace” collar from a bicycle inner tube and designed costume concepts for a production of Antigone. Her work netted the prestigious scholarship, which offers in-depth theatre workshops and networking opportunities.

“I was so surprised when they announced my name,” Taylor said. “And when they learned I was the first person from North Dakota to win the scholarship, they offered me two weeks instead of one.” She will take workshops on special effects, or “fog, fire and smoke,” as she calls it, and lighting and technology this summer.

Outside the box

Taylor’s concept, which used “trash” to create the post-apocalyptic look of the play, was a hit.

“The judges like inspiration outside the box,” said Jessica Ray, faculty member and costume designer in theatre arts. “They like costumes that use unusual materials and are aesthetically pleasing.”

Costumes are important, said Ray. “From the moment we meet someone, we deduce a lot about their personality. Costumes give characters depth. They need clothing that supports their characters, or they are less believable. There is nothing more magical than seeing student work come together on stage. It’s important to take the audience on a journey.”

Taylor chose UND because she could both act and design costumes. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Minot State University before coming to UND for her master of arts in theatre.

“Theatre is a very personal art form,” said Taylor. “I love seeing both sides – the costume and acting – and I think that acting makes me a better designer.”

In addition to acting, she works as the costume shop supervisor, teaching students to sew and working as a stitcher and draper.

“It’s like a professional shop,” Taylor said. She begins by drawing a costume, then developing a pattern and “draping” muslin on mannequins to create a pattern. “I love designing and making costumes.”

Her favorite creation was Aunt March in Little Women. “The hoop skirt, the corset, the huge bonnet – it was wonderful to bring her to life,” said Taylor. She draped the pattern, stitched the costume, and played the character.

Taylor likes upcycling and reusing, and said her love of sewing and upcycling is inspired by her mother, who makes upcycled bags.

“A year ago, I made a dress from an old statistics textbook,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s work will be on display in the Burtness Theatre lobby during the next two plays, starting this week with The Nether. Taylor also designed the costumes for that play.