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BWW Interview: Adding Another Dimension: MSMT Mentors Capstone Project Student

Rose Horowitz's artistic and educational journey has taken her from lobsters to masked ball gowns to Maine State Music Theatre - a decidedly unique and adventurous path for a high school senior! Horowitz, ranked number one in her class at Topsham's Mt. Ararat High School, is currently working on her Capstone senior project in the Costumes Rental Division of the theatre company, under the mentorship of Rentals Manager Amy Mussman and Rentals Coordinator Travis Grant.

The Capstone project requires seniors to design, create, and execute to completion "a non-academic project of their own choosing, which will fulfill their unique interests and help them gain in technical and social skills." Horowitz, a highly accomplished academic student whose interest run the gamut from science and technology to poetry, music, and the visual arts, has long evinced an interest in historic fashion and costume design and wanted to use this senior opportunity to bring to life one of her favorite illustrator's, Japanese designer Sakizo's, costume designs. To accomplish this, she needed to learn the intricacies of patterning, sewing, and theatrical costuming.

MSMT accepted Horowitz as their mentee, and she has been working this semester on the dress, wig, accessories, and makeup for Sakizo's Black Masked Ball Gown, learning how to transform the essentially two-dimensional drawing into a three dimensional reality. The gown, one of Sakizo's many historically-inspired, humanized illustrations of everyday objects, is a richly textured, many-layered, vibrantly colored, fanciful gown with hints at Elizabethan dress. "I chose this particular dress," Horowitz says, "because I was drawn to the colors and the details. She has a star on her cheek, which also caught my eye. I am Jewish, so I like to think of it as the Star of David. Sakizo's designs are a mesh of Western and Eastern ideas, of anime and historic designs."

"When I came to MSMT," Horowitz recounts, "I only knew two basic stitches which I had taught myself from You Tube, and I could follow a commercial pattern."

"When she arrived, we helped Rose refresh her stitching skills and make hand and machine samplers," says Travis Grant, who is directly teaching Horowitz. "She got to learn our machines and the proper stitches to insure the longevity of garments. Then I showed her how to pattern the various pieces of the garment, and we did some draping. She is making the dress in a muslin mockup first, and then she will execute it in the fabrics she has brought from her various excursions on college trips in New York and Philadelphia."

"I probably have taken many artistic liberties with this dress," says Horowitz, showing me the sketches she made to break down the numerous elements of the design. "In the illustration, you can only see the front and not the legs, so I had to imagine these myself. I had to decide how to make this two-dimensional drawing into a three-dimensional reality."

Horowitz shows me the beige lace and "unforgiving" dark blue velvet she has chosen and demonstrates the meticulously completed accessories: a long wavy, silver wig streaked with purple and crowned with two Princess buns; roundels encrusted with pearls lace, and gold paint, a fanciful headdress made of black feathers and a gold beak, an elaborate mask, and royal blue shoes with jeweled buckles. When the costume is complete, she will enter two Katsucan competitions, one in Boston and one in Maryland, where she will wear the entire ensemble and full makeup and compete for a prize in costume design. Then she will present her project to a panel of teachers at school with a photo shoot documenting the creative and learning process.

"MSMT has always been an educational theatre," says Mussman, referencing the prestigious summer intern-apprentice programs the company fosters. "We wholeheartedly endorse whatever we can do to support local students and schools. We have done some workshops for other neighboring schools in costume design and career exploration, but this Capstone project has been very special for us as well."

"Rose is such a special student because she is so talented, motivated and self-starting," adds Grant.

Horowitz, who has been accepted early decision to Wellesley, is not sure in what she will eventually major. She excels at mathematics, sciences, languages, the humanities, and art - (she currently studies photography and art history) - is an abiding passion. "Visual art is an integral part of my beings, and this year since I wasn't taking a class, I felt as if an arm had been cut off. That's why I wanted to do this project."

Born in an orphanage in China and adopted at the age of thirteen months, she lives in the coastal town of Harpswell, Maine, with her parents who are both potters. " I can't remember when I began to draw. I grew up around clay, and I guess all that artistic energy around the house was an inspiration to me," explains Horowitz. Her contact with MSMT initially came from her fascination with the annual Costume Sale and through several productions to which her parents brought her. One of her hobbies has been "cosplay" - dressing up as favorite book or animation characters from Japanese culture - "I always loved Disney and Asian princesses" - and that, in turn led to her interest in historic costume design, her appreciation for the history part, "thanks to a teacher in sophomore year."

But Horowitz also has a scientific gift. She was a MERITS science intern in the Bowdoin College laboratory last summer, "where "I earned a stipend dissecting lobsters and I will use that money to finance making this dress." Asked if she sees a dichotomy between her scientific and artistic inclinations, Horowitz replies, "No at all. I see all these pieces of my interests as connected. I have a three-dimensional mind; seeing in 3D helped me dissect the lobsters because I could visualize where I was going before I made a cut." It is the same visualization she is using in her first attempt at a complicated theatrical costume.

A valuable skill, indeed, both for Rose Horowitz's intellectual, creative, and educational development, and for MSMT. Because true to the adage, mentors often learn from their students as well. Mussman sums up the theatre company's delight in being able to participate in this Capstone project. "The value for us is immeasurable. Not only does it feel as if we are adding to our wonderful family, as we invite more people to work with us, but it is one more step in our commitment to community outreach."

And so, not only is Rose Horowitz bringing a third dimension to her creative exploration, but MSMT is adding another meaningful layer to its ongoing efforts to enhance and expand the appreciation of live theatre in Maine.

Photos: Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold

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