Theatre Alumna Sasha Beers on Studying Theatre and Costume Design at USF
Monday, June 22, 2020
When Sasha Beers arrived at USF, she was surrounded by new academic opportunities.
Having already completed her associate's degree in theatre from Hillsborough Community College, she faced the challenge of finding a new program that suited her. After deliberating on other programs, namely political science, she decided on the path that felt most natural to her as a theatre major in the School of Theatre and Dance.
Her reasoning was simple.
“I want to enjoy what I'm doing and be passionate about the schooling I'm doing,” said Beers. “Because if I'm not passionate, I'm not going to do well.”
Beers was already an active self-taught seamstress and cosplayer. She made costumes for fellow cosplayers, directed shows at conferences such as Metrocon, and worked as a set builder and dresser at the Carrollwood Players Theatre.
When USF theatre instructor Merilyn Bertch, who teaches classes costume design, found out Beers could sew, Beers made one final adjustment to her academic trajectory, changing her concentration from performance to theatre design.
“She could tell before I could that I wanted to be a design major,” said Beers. “Once I got to the design stuff, it was done. I enjoyed most of my classes and I think I really excelled in it.”
In the spring of 2019, Beers joined the Academy of the Holy Names in South Tampa, where she worked as the set designer and builder on the school's production of Cats.
“It really pushed me as a builder,” said Beers. “We put a half of a car in there. … It almost didn't fit into the building, because the person who built the building did not think about loading things in for sets.”
The chance to work on a production of Cats was particularly meaningful to Beers. The 1998 film recording of Cats on VHS was the first musical she saw, and since then, remained a bucket list production to be a part of.
In the spring semester of 2020, Beers worked on the USF British International Theatre Program (BRIT) production of Virginia Woolf's Orlando with three UK theatre artists: theatre director Helen Tennison, projection designer Eva Auster, and composition and sound designer Matt Eaton. Each year, the BRIT program brings theatre artists from the UK to work directly with USF students on masterclasses, workshops, or main stage productions.
As an associate costumer designer, Beers was charged with creating the wigs and headpieces for the entire production. Using sketches provided by Assistant Professor of Theatre Elizabeth Bourgeois, she created over twelve pieces for the cast, including one for Queen Elizabeth, made entirely out of paper and paper products.
“Figuring that out was a huge challenge, but I think the end result came out pretty good,” said Beers. “It was really nerve-wracking watching them out there. I am kind of glad it was only a one-weekend show because they're not very sturdy things.”
By working on this production, Beers gained valuable experience working collaboratively with international theatre professionals.
Despite the challenges of finishing her degree remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Beers was able to stay motivated and spend a lot of time finalizing her final design projects on her iPad at home.
As a longtime patron of movie theatres and a fan of shows such as Netflix's The Witcher and HBO's Game of Thrones, she looks forward to exploring costume design opportunities in film, whether in production environments in the big film state of Georgia or costume houses around the country.
Beers hopes that incoming college theatre students consider not only theatre performance, but the variety of opportunities that abound in theatre and costume design.
“I would definitely say a lot of people come through from high schools only see theatre departments for the performance aspects,” said Beers, “but design is such a huge and integral part of anything performance-based. ... I've learned so much and I'm really grateful for everything that USF has given me.”