Ted Stark did not set out to be a costume-maker. While he likes to say that the profession actually chose him, it’s been a good fit for Stark.
Stark is senior instructor of costume technology in CU-Boulder’s Department of Theatre and Dance and the costume shop manager.
As a costume technologist, Stark takes a costume designer’s two-dimensional idea and transforms it into a three-dimensional reality. When constructing a costume from a sketch, he considers body type, fabric, period and silhouette, as well as whether the choreography calls for activities like dancing or fighting onstage.
“I look at clothes in a geometric and physical way,” says Stark, who has been with CU-Boulder for 15 years. “You have to think about the way costumes move through space and react to gravity. There are many variables in theater and performance that change from moment to moment.”
Motivated by performance and the theater during college, Stark developed a career as a costume technologist after Stark worked in a theater costume shop at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
Stark began his professional career as a costume technologist for the Santa Fe Opera and has worked for the Los Angeles Opera and for national companies of Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War. He also runs his own company building costumes for Broadway shows, with the help of student employees.
When asked if he considers himself an artist, Stark is emphatic: “Absolutely! A designer can draw the worst design in the world, but if you have a good production team to make the garment, you can still have a beautiful costume on stage.”
An instructor of courses in costume construction, Stark wants his students to learn transferrable hands-on skills and to be able to think independently. He strives to not just inspire and motivate his students, but to mentor them to “be better humans.”
“In our culture, students who are a product of the No Child Left Behind Act have never done anything with their hands,” says Stark. “They’ve been taught that everything in their lives is about facts and testing. Some students panic when they have to actually make something.”
Connecting with students on a personal level is important to Stark. When he was in college and trying to figure out his identity, there was no one he felt comfortable talking to about his struggle to fit in. As a result, he strives to be a sounding board for students who come to him wanting to talk about their own lives.
“I am gay,” says Stark. “There’s no two ways about it. So the question of whether it plays into who I am as an individual is a little absurd, because it just is who I am. I certainly don’t announce what my sexuality is in the classroom, but I’m also not shy about it.
“Without a doubt the most rewarding part of my job are the relationships I develop with my students,” he says. “More than anything, I hope students take away from their time with me an ability to relate with people in a compassionate and positive way.”