Costume Designer Jennie Ruhland Creates Decadent Costumes

Ruhland's Passion Exudes Through Her Designs For The Theatre Department

If the clothes make the man, thank costume designer Jennie Ruhland for making sure that every piece of clothing fits a specific character for the theatrical performances at Roanoke.

With Ruhland's vision, cast members go from merely reciting their lines to embodying their full characters. This process not only takes a great deal of time creating each costume, but also includes time spent studying each character and trying to best express them through clothing.

"For inspiration, I read through the script several times and do a play analysis," Ruhland says. "I really try to get into the heartbeat of the character-to know the individual's mind and soul."

In addition to a play analysis, Ruhland makes charcoal sketches of characters, researches the period of plays and typical garb worn during the era and creates thumbnail sketches for each character.

"It's always a fun process to bring a character to life through talking with the director and creating a shared vision of the play," Ruhland says. "I even have research boards with inspirational artwork or other items that will help me in the design process."

Ruhland finds that her job not only allows her to interact on a daily basis with students and faculty, but also allows for a great amount of diversity.

"What I love about the theatre is that it embraces so many different ideas and designing constantly changes for each performance and I'm never bored," Ruhland says.

It is important to note that nothing ever happens on a whim with costume design. Every detail, down to the color of a character's shoes, is thought through with careful attention and for a purpose.

Ruhland has been doing costume design for 10 years and teaches classes at Roanoke that allow her to share her talent in costume construction, costume design and stage make-up with students.

After graduating from Radford University, Ruhland attended the University of Virginia where she received her master's of fine arts in costume design and technology. After interning on Broadway, Ruhland moved to the Roanoke area and helped with many local productions. The full-time costume designer and teaching associate at Roanoke plans to bring her great talent to the College for many more productions.