In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.
All the behind-the-scenes, backstage works is what makes a show dazzle onstage, as Caitlin Duncan ’22 can attest.
A double major in theatrical design and technology and arts administration, with minors in early childhood development and business administration, Duncan is pursuing a career in costume design. That journey began the fall of her first-year as she began working in the Department of Performing Arts’ costume shop.
This year, the Theatrical Design and Technology Program recognized her with the Senior Student Excellence Award. Duncan was also a Campus Recreation and Wellness team leader while at Elon.
What her professors say:
“Over the past four years, Caitlin has grown as an amazing theatrical designer with an excellent eye for costume design,” said Costume Shop Manager, Cutter/Draper and Instructor Heidi Jo Schiemer. “She is a natural leader and has been an excellent mentor for our first-year and sophomore students.”
You studied so many things at Elon. How did you select your majors?
Coming to Elon I knew I wanted to pursue a career in costume design. Once I met the faculty and staff in the university costume shop, I knew that theatrical design and technology was the fit for me. The costume shop was so full of life and Associate Professor Jack Smith and Costume Shop Manager Heidi Jo Schiemer were both so knowledgeable and welcoming. During my first semester at Elon, I met many performing arts students that were double majors in arts administration. The students only had phenomenal things to say about Assistant Professor of Arts Administration David McGraw, the program coordinator, and the arts administration program. After my first arts administration class, I was hooked!
Who was your mentor, and how did that relationship strengthen your college experience or prepare you for a career in performing arts?
Elon University Costume Shop Manager Heidi Jo Schiemer hired me to work in the costume shop my first-year fall and it has truly changed the trajectory of my career. Heidi is one of the hardest working individuals that I have ever met. Her dedication to student learning has enhanced my Elon experience by taking every day as an opportunity to learn a new technique, craft or skill.
Heidi has consistently challenged me to learn and grow as an artist by modeling what a life-long learner looks like. More than just a mentor, Heidi has also been a great friend. She truly cares about the holistic well-being of each student and goes out of her way to make each student feel welcome and encouraged to be themselves.
What are your plans following graduation?
After graduation I will be joining the Ogunquit Playhouse Summer Season in Ogunquit, Maine, as their costume shop first hand. Ogunquit Playhouse has a 90-year legacy of producing world-class theatre from the ground up, collaborating with creative teams from New York, Los Angeles and London, and featuring the best and brightest talent from Broadway, film and television.
What’s been the most valuable part of your Elon experience?
As a first-year student, I built Johanna’s dress as a costume construction project for Elon University’s production of “Sweeney Todd.” This project was a bit daunting at first, but accomplishing a project of this size in the fall of my first semester really set the trajectory for my success at Elon. When I saw the finished costume on stage, I was so proud of all of the many hours and hard work that I had put into it.
As a senior, I served as the costume designer for Elon University’s production of “Sense and Sensibility.” This design opportunity was something that I had been working towards throughout all four years at Elon. Having the opportunity to serve as the costume designer allowed me to practice real-world skills that are directly transferable into my future career. I was able to learn about time management, how to work well with other designers, formed important organization skills and furthered my creative design process.
I served as the Campus Recreation and Wellness group exercise team leader for two years. This job opportunity allowed me to grow in my leadership skills by managing a team of 15 peer group exercise instructors. As the team leader I was able to hone my skills of encouragement, communication and confidence.
What advice would you give to future Elon students?
My advice to a first-year student would be to find passion projects and give them your 100%. Find the place on campus where you feel inspired to do more and give it your all. Allow yourself to be passionate about the work you are doing.