Designing Woman

Photos and video by Brandon Parigo; interview by Stacy Downs; graphics by Sarah Richardson | Strategic Marketing and Communications

Video and Q&A with a master’s student in costume design 

Get to know our students, and you’ll know what UMKC is all about

L.A. Clevenson, ’19
Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design and Technology
School: Department of Theatre, College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Houston, Texas



Why did you choose UMKC?

The graduate program for costume design at UMKC is incredibly well-rounded. While evenly splitting design and technical study, it also has a high art and rendering focus which is very rare, but very valuable in this field.

My undergraduate professor, as well as many of the working professionals in Houston, attended UMKC and highly recommended this nationally recognized program.

>Hollywood Reporter Names UMKC Theatre A Top 10 Costume Design School in 2018



Why did you choose costume design?

When I was very young my parents and I would attend Broadway productions touring through Houston. I immediately fell in love with theatre. I started acting in plays when I was in middle school and continued through high school. I couldn’t get enough.

When I decided to attend college for acting, I began to realize that I was more fond of the tech side of productions. Acting wasn’t quite the right fit and while taking a technical design class (you were required to as an actor) the professor encouraged me to take a costume design class. I loved it. Character creation, psychological analysis and discovery of the human experience, designing, rendering, building (and shopping!); it was everything I’ve loved my entire life.



What are the challenges of the program?

You are kept very busy. Art education, theoretical design, designing shows (often more than one at a time), working in the shop on your show as well as other graduate students’. It is non-stop. Theatre is like that though and this program really prepares you for what your life will be like after you graduate.



What are the benefits?

I came back to school to further my skills as a technician, designer and visual artist.

Because I had been out in the world for a while I really had a grasp of what I didn’t know and this program really prepares you for every aspect of designing and executing a full production, with or without the support of a costume shop behind you. And often when working in a theatre, you are not afforded that luxury.



How has your college program inspired you?

Working with (professors) Lindsay Davis and Sarah Oliver has been incredibly inspiring. They both have a real commitment to their students that you don’t see every day once you are out working post college. You are able to take risks and are supported in your decisions and celebrated in your progress as a designer and technician, by both the professors and the other graduate students in the program. The program’s positive atmosphere creates designers who support others, rather than a negatively competitive attitude which often happens at universities. It sets UMKC apart and inspires me every day to focus on the product, and to create something great. This is incredibly valuable.



Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?

This is a pretty big one. I’ve always been a perfectionist, but in the sense that I’m never quite satisfied with my own work. While I still believe that striving towards perfection is admirable, professors Davis and Oliver have both helped me to understand that it’s a good thing to have a goal in mind, and to celebrate the final product. We all learn something new with each production, and that’s a great thing. I am still working on this (it’s about 30 years engrained at this point), but I am only about halfway through with my training and progress is definitely being made.



What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

Believe in yourself. Funny enough, before now I’m not sure I’ve known how incredibly valuable that advice is.



What motto do you go by?

Fake it till you make it.

What is one word that best describes you?

Perfectionist. But I am trying to work through it.


From across the country and around the world, our students come together in Kansas City to study business, medicine, theatre and more than 100 other academic areas. Roos become leaders in their fields and give back to their communities.

>Meet more UMKC students
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