A Call for Equal Support in Theatrical Design

Elsa Hiltner

Technical theatre is comprised of designing and constructing. In some areas of design, those roles are separated, and separately compensated. Set and lighting designers overwhelmingly have a technical director and master electrician hired by the company to execute a designer’s plan, even at smaller, non-equity, and storefront theatres. In contrast, costume designers are left to their own devices at all but the largest institutions. Without the support of a technician, costume designers have their hands in each step of bringing the design to the stage—measuring actors, drafting patterns, building costumes, shopping, coordinating rentals, fittings, completing alterations, writing up laundry instructions, coordinating understudy costumes, returns, budgets, the occasional mid-run maintenance, and strike. The stitchers and assistants they work with are usually interviewed and hired by the costume designer and are paid from the designer’s fee, or occasionally the costume budget if there’s room. 

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