Theatre faculty’s professional network delivers early career experiences for students, alumni

Photo from Mint Theatre Company’s production of “The Mountains Look Different,” with costume design led by Andrea Varga

Associate Professor of Theatre Design Andrea Varga prides herself in nurturing the professional lives of her department’s students and alumni.

“I always try to include alumni and/or students in my professional work so they can get the experience, connections and window into our industry,” she said.

Her recent stint as the costume designer for the Mint Theater Company’s Off-Broadway production of “The Mountains Look Different” was just the latest example of her commitment to fostering these connections.

Varga was able to bring on SUNY New Paltz alumna Alexandra Lakis ’18 to work as assistant costume designer on the production, and students Stella Katz ’20 and Aidan Countryman ’19 as interns.

Lakis said the play was “a solid first stepping stone in my career as a theater artist,” since it was her first time working on a theater production outside of New Paltz and her first professional theater gig since graduating. She was “extremely honored” that Varga asked her to be her assistant costume designer.

“I learned about how one should schedule fittings, take proper notes, distress costume pieces and navigate a small part of New York City,” said Lakis. “Watching how Andrea works and learning tips and tricks from her was very helpful. All of these things will help to make me a more hardworking person down the line.”

It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement—the young professionals get to broaden their horizons, bolster their résumés and form valuable relationships in the theatre industry, and Varga gets to work alongside people she already knows to be skilled and competent in their craft.

“The entertainment arts are all about teams and collaboration, and have staffing needs at all levels of experience,” Varga said. “It’s great for me to have assistants, dressers or interns who I already know, and it’s great for them to meet people outside of New Paltz who can expand their professional networks. The people at the Mint trust that my students know what they are doing and are well trained, so they have no problem hiring people I recommend.”

Varga said that, over the years, the Mint Theater Company has hired and re-hired at least a dozen of her former students in different capacities.

“The Mountains Look Different,” which ran May 30 through July 14 at Theatre Row in New York City, takes place in 1948 in rural western Ireland, and tells the story of Tom and Bairbre, newlyweds in London who return from the city to Tom’s family farm, where they must confront family drama and secrets from Bairbre’s past life.

Visit the Department of Theatre Arts online for more info about opportunities for aspiring performers, producers and designers.