Kat Lawrence ’22
- Majors: Theater Arts and Music, with a concentration in Musical Theater
- Minor: Cinema, television and integrated media
- Activities: Representative of the undergraduate theater arts department; Vice President, Undergraduate Theater Collective; assistant musical director, Proscenium a cappella
- Hometown: Framingham, Mass.
Photo credit: Tom Kates
My first costume design class stirred something in me. I was overwhelmed by the impact and impact of personal clothing choices in storytelling. After that course, I costumed several shows produced by the Undergraduate Theater Collective, our student-run theater troupe, and got a job in the theater department‘s costume shop. When it came time to submit a graduation thesis, I struggled to define exactly what I wanted to do. The thesis committee graciously invited me to costume the department’s production of “Orlando” so that I could gain professional experience with sufficient support and guidance. I was so excited and honored, and decided that this would be a great culmination of my personal growth at Brandeis.
The piece is a costume designer’s dream, but also an extreme challenge. It is based on the novel “Orlando” by Virgina Woolf, which is a fictional fantasy biography of the titular Orlando, who experiences the world as both a man and a woman. The story spans five centuries, from the Elizabethan era to the 20th century.
My thesis explores the current gender binary system: where it comes from, how it intersects and how it can be challenged. I do this by taking inspiration from modern influencers who push the boundaries of gender and fashion – for example, Janelle Monáe, Harry Styles and Lil Nas X – and juxtaposing them with historical fashion. Hopefully, the result will cause audiences to re-evaluate their own perception of the genre.
My thesis mentor, Associate Professor of Theater Arts Cameron Anderson, pushed me to go further in my thinking and creativity. Professional costume designer Chelsea Kerl walked me through the process and even walked me to fabric stores. Mary Hurd, who until recently was the department’s costume director, and Brooke Stanton, acting costume shop manager, went out of their way to keep me from feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I am beyond lucky to have the support I give, and I know there are many others in the department who encourage and support me.
“Orlando,” directed by Steven Bogart, with costumes by Kat Lawrence, premiered on the main stage at Spingold, March 11-13, 2022.