A New Type of Production
U of I’s costume shop sews masks for local medical professionals
The hemming of pants, sewing of buttons and assembling of costumes. Three weeks ago, there was a palpable excitement and busyness among the stitchers in the University of Idaho’s Department of Theatre Arts as they prepared for the season finale production. Now, with all classes online and the final 2020 production cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the scene in the costume shop is a little different.
But, as the saying goes, the show does go on.
Ginger Sorensen, a clinical assistant professor and costume director, oversees all aspects of the costume production for each U of I play. Normally, students in her production lab class design and sew costumes for the theatrical productions. But, with no production to prepare for, the costume shop students turned from outfitting its actors to sewing for those currently in the spotlight – staff at Gritman Medical Center in Moscow.
“Someone sent me a link about people making masks at home in other states, so I called Gritman and talked to volunteer services to get more information,” Sorensen said. “This is something in my skillset that I can do to help.”
Others in the Moscow community have donated supplies to Gritman, including local quilting groups and sewing enthusiasts.
“There has been such a great outpouring of care and empathy from our community, including the Theatre Department,” said Kim Malm, Gritman volunteer services coordinator. “The masks being donated are used not only in the hospital, but also in clinics by the frontline staff.”
Medical staff use N95 masks as protection from viruses like COVID-19. Cloth masks can be used by health care professionals to cover N95 masks, extending the useful life of these critical pieces of medical equipment.
“Gritman is incredibly grateful to organizations like the University of Idaho Theatre Department for its support of our staff and patients during this critical time,” said Peter Mundt, Gritman director of community relations and marketing. “It will take our whole community working together to defeat COVID-19, and this donation demonstrates that level of commitment.”
Using materials left over from other productions, Sorensen used the template provided by Gritman to sew samples of the masks. She gave a sample, a bag of materials, and in some cases, one of her extra personal sewing machines to students also interested in participating.
“We have a lot of supplies in the costume shop – some are left over from shows and some are donations,” Sorensen said. “For some reason, we have a lot of elastic in weird colors that we don’t use very often. This seems like a really good way to use up the 100-yard surplus of purple underwear elastic!”
Already, Sorensen and her students have made more than 100 masks.
Currently, seven students are participating in the project, including:
- Carson Saline, a Master of Fine Arts in theatre performance candidate from Snowflake, Arizona;
- Caroline Frias, a Master of Fine Arts in theatre costume design from Miami, Florida
- BreAnne Servoss Cook, a theatre arts major from Shelley;
- Anthony Jones, an apparel, textiles and design major from Moscow;
- Isabella Bermingham, a criminology and psychology major from Paso Robles, California;
- Victoria Zenner, a theatre arts major from Meridian; and
Amy Huck, an operations management and accounting major from Caldwell.
“I'm making masks because I want to give back to the community that has been there for me for the past few years,” Servoss Cook said. “In a time of crisis, I find no better way to push back the anxiety and fear of the unknown than by doing something that can make a difference.”
Article by Kathy Foss, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences
Published March 2020