DePaul University Newsline > Sections > That’s My Job > Meet Jessie Gowens: Coordinating The Theatre School costume shop
By Rachel Wojnicki /
May 6, 2022 /
Posted in: THAT'S MY JOB /
They happen in a matter of seconds, typically 90 or less. The costume quick change is an essential component of live theatre, one of the field's most logistical challenges and a feat that takes a small team to pull off. Behind those magical moments at DePaul is Jessie Gowens, the wardrobe supervisor for The Theatre School, and her student crew.
“Quick changes are one of my favorite parts of theatre," Gowens says. “It's an adrenaline rush every time. The key is to be extremely communicative. For some, it can be another challenge because we have to be quiet – we're standing right off stage. It takes a lot of practice and nonverbal cues."
Gowens received a bachelor of science in costume design and technology from Northern Arizona University before heading to Chicago. After sharing her expertise with the Chicago Costume Company for several years, she joined The Theatre School in 2019.
Beyond choreographing quick changes for DePaul productions, as the wardrobe supervisor she manages all things costume-related backstage. This means keeping track of all costumes, from the moment they are built through the end of a production. She also ensures dressing rooms are prepped and costumes are washed, steamed and ready for actors, as well as keeping detailed notes on exactly how each actor should look.
“Are the socks tucked under the pants or over them? How many buttons are done on a coat? None of those details are left to chance," she explains. “My job is to track the details to ensure continuity night after night."
Gowens also provides freshmen, who typically comprise the crew for TTS productions, a crash course on backstage management. From quick sews, when a costume rips or button pops, to quick changes to how particular items in a costume should be washed and cared for, Gowens gives newer students the rundown on essential theatre steps.
“Many people don't realize how much detail, prep and management goes into these aspects of a show. We are so much more than laundry," she laughs. “But that's the point, it's part of the 'magic.' Seeing the result of all that work, of all the spreadsheets and lists, is such a reward. Being able to share that insight with students just starting their journey in The Theatre School is great."
You can catch Gowens' work this spring in The Theatre School's current productions, “Tall Enough" and “Much Ado About Nothing," as well as the upcoming production, “Meeting Points." Get the latest on COVID-19 safety for attending productions at The Theatre School on the school's website.