Bard on the Beach relies on an incredible team of staff, Company members, and volunteers to help put on our Festival every summer. We are so excited to continue our People of Bard series, which will spotlight just some of the wonderful individuals who make our work possible. If you missed our last spotlight on our Production team superstar, Rachel E. Ross, you can read it here.
This week, we’re excited to be highlighting our incredible Assistant Head of Wardrobe and Head of Backstage Wardrobe, Melissa McCowell! Melissa first joined Bard in 2013, and she’s been an invaluable part of the wardrobe team ever since. We’re so grateful for everything that Melissa does to make our costumes look as spectacular as they do year after year, and we’re thrilled to be speaking with her today!
Can you tell us a little bit about your role and your journey at Bard?
This Season I am the Assistant Head of Wardrobe and the Head of Backstage Wardrobe here at Bard. My first Season was back in 2013 as a Design Assistant to Mara Gottler on Elizabeth Rex, which was an incredible experience. The following year I came on board as a Dresser for the Howard Family Stage, and I have been a Dresser backstage ever since. In 2019, my role morphed into Lead Dresser, tackling the BMO Mainstage for the first time, and my role has continued to evolve into what is now Head of Backstage Wardrobe.
There is quite a bit of cross-over between my two positions. It’s a lot of tracking of costume pieces in terms of what each costume look involves, as well as making the running tracks for each show, so we know how and when costume changes will take place and what they entail. Once the shows are down here on site, I help oversee and support the wardrobe teams on both stages as well as run the shows, which includes laundry and maintenance throughout the Season.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I am drawn to the creative problem-solving that it often takes to make things that may initially seem impossible into theatre magic, whether that’s working through ambitious quick changes or fixing things on the fly when something inevitably goes wrong. It’s also wonderful to be able to support such talented and incredible artists and creatives both on and off the stage. Helping designers see their visions come together or helping an actor discover a character and feel their best is really special. There is an incredible intimacy and vulnerability with wardrobe which is something I deeply respect.
What were you looking forward to the most this Season?
This was my first Season as Assistant Head of Wardrobe, so I was really looking forward to tackling that as a new challenge and learning as much as I could from Amy, our Head of Wardrobe, and all of the incredible designers. I was also just excited to be around such a lovely group of people this summer. It’s an especially beautiful collection of humans this Season, and it’s such a treat to get to spend so much time with them.
Do you have a favourite memory from past Seasons at Bard?
Too many! And they all involve backstage shenanigans.
When you aren’t helping to put on a Festival, what do you like to do in the summer?
When there is time, I love to be outside: hiking, kayaking, or camping. And I savour any moments where I can catch up with friends, especially after weeks of being in tech.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Melissa! Be sure to stay tuned for more instalments of our People of Bard series in the weeks to come.