Centre alumna Kayla Higbee ‘14 is back on campus as DramaCentre’s new Costume Shop Manager.

While Higbee found costuming by accident, she has always been interested in sewing. As a child, her mother made all of her Halloween costumes by hand and showed her daughter how to stitch them.

“I was placed in the costume shop as my work-study assignment when I first arrived at Centre,” Higbee said. “I think I may have checked ‘sewing’ as a skill on the sheet they send work study students and I was placed under [Charles T. Hazelrigg Professor of Dramatic Arts] Patrick Kagan-Moore, who, as soon as I walked into his office, asked me if I could sew. When I said yes, he took me to the costume shop and left me there [to sew].”

She first worked as a dresser on DramaCentre’s production of Arcadia, where she “absolutely fell in love with being backstage.”

“I definitely didn’t come to Centre wanting to do drama or costuming. I was set on clinical psychology, and was actually a double major in Psychology and English for the longest time,”

Higbee said. “After I went to London and didn’t work on a play for a semester and saw 25 plays, I realized how much I missed it and realized that Psychology wasn’t for me, and theatre had become my passion.”

After finding her passion for the dramatic arts, Higbee worked as the Costume Shop Manager at Theatre West Virginia.

“It was an outdoor theatre and we had a costuming staff of three, including myself,” Higbee said. “We were responsible for taking care of 60 actors and four shows throughout the summer. It was one of the biggest challenges of my life, but I loved every second of it.”

Most recently, she worked as a stitcher at Porthouse Theatre in Kent, Ohio, an Equity theatre associated with Kent State University. As a stitcher, she worked from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day building costumes. “Porthouse has very high standards, and my skills definitely improved from spending the summer with them,” Higbee said.

Now, as DramaCentre’s Costume Shop Manager, she will be in charge of work-study students who build the costumes for the mainstage shows. She will also work with the costume designers to make sure that costumes are built according to what they want. Once she is settled in, she looks forward to continuing the shop’s biannual bake-offs.

“Costuming and food go hand in hand and I’ll never turn down [Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts] Matthew Hallock’s focaccia bread,” Higbee said. “I also really love to bake myself, so this will just give me an excuse to.”

She’s also looking forward to working on the fall production of Boeing Boeing.

“I haven’t read the play yet, but the summaries I’ve read are hilarious,” Higbee said. “I love comedy and it’ll be good to see Centre do one again. I definitely think we’re up for it and I think audiences are going to love it.”

Higbee hopes that students who work in the costume shop will be part of a learning environment and ask questions.

“We never stop learning in a profession like this and I think that’s what made me enjoy the shop so much,” she said. “I want them to realize that they’re important parts of the giant collaboration that is theatre and the work they do is important, which is exactly why I became so passionate about it myself. But it’s also fun, because we get to make clothes, which is one of the coolest jobs you can have.”

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