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Billy Witch

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Elizabeth Barrett Groth
October 11, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Costume Designer.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I love working on theater that is, for lack of a better term, Immersive. And I'm not talking about "Sleep No More" immersion (though it was very cool)- but theater that mentally sucks you into a separate, wholly believable world for a couple of hours and won't let you leave. I love working on shows that can make an audience actually loose themselves in the universe onstage I helped to create- the kind of theater that leaves you shaken and energized and inspired; that engages your imagination as well as your emotions. So it's less about genre or movement or era or style for me, and more about absolute commitment to telling a story in the best way possible as part of the team.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this fall that...?
...accurately evokes that horrible, awkward, exciting, terrifying process that turns you from a kid into an adult. It doesn't matter where or when you grew up, or if you went to summer camp or not. If you were 14 at some point in your life, you will see yourself in these characters. The first read-through I attended gave me PTSD flashbacks to 7th grade. It's extraordinary how well Greg Moss has captured adolescence. And there's wildlife onstage.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
Many of them I have known since my first year of grad school. Tim Brown and Marie Yokoyama and I were all classmates at Yale- I've worked with Marie now on ten shows, maybe? But this is the first time I have been able to work with Tim, which is really exciting. Erik Pearson and I have collaborated since we were assigned to do a paper project of "The Tempest" in my first year (and his second) and realized we make really good theater together. Eric Bryant, Liz Wisan and Seamus Mulcahy are all Elis, too. Allyson Morgan and Erik and I all worked on a play, "Up Up, Down Down" with NYTE a couple of years ago. Chris Barlow and I are stalking each other and keep working together by accident! Everyone else, I either had an great time with on the first iteration of "Billy Witch" with Studio 42 last winter, or they are brand new colleagues I am getting to know. It's a very talented, smart group of people- and it's really brilliant to be able to work with so many friends. I am so looking forward to tech.

Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
Actually it's more like a combination of Thundercats, Daria, and that Care Bears movie where they battle evil in the summer camp.

Who are your heroes?
Teachers. I have been blessed in my life to have had some really amazing teachers, both in school and out, that have made me the artist I am today. Mrs. Kausek who inspired my love of sewing and Anne Walton who taught me to use a sewing machine. The whole Kausek/Rzeszotarski/Lanning clan in Ohio, and Bruce and Joe and Gram, who all taught me how to tell a great story and to nail the punchline. The extended network of "Aunties" and bonus family I grew up with, Katherine Patterson, Natalie and Sam Babbitt, Steven Kellogg, et al who taught me so much about writing and design, and are still some of my biggest supporters. Mrs. Chelman who gave me confidence in my work way back in second grade. Mr. McPhee and Mr. Ratkevich, my art teachers in High School, who helped got me into college, along with Mr. Light in music. Bill Pucilowsky, Kate Turner-Walker, and Krissy Huie, who were my mentors at George Washington University. The amazing women of the costume shop at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, who took me seriously and taught me so much about being a professional working in theater. The entire staff and faculty at Yale School of Drama, especially the design faculty and the absolutely stellar staff of the costume shops there. Tricia Robin and Greg La Voi for their invaluable advice. The curators and the Education Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am so lucky to have had so many generous, talented, people in my life. There are far too many more to name here. Teachers are so important! Arts Education is so important! But my family are the best teachers: Richard Groth, Mary Brigid Barrett and Emily and Patrick Groth. They have seen my work and my process from the beginning, they are the most caring and genuinely supportive people on the planet, but they are also completely unafraid to look at something I have done and say "It's good, but you are capable of doing better." They inspire me to keep making art, and to keep making it better. My Mom and Dad were my first teachers, and they shared with me their love of art, music, theater and literature. My sister and brother are excellent artists in their own right, and may be the smartest people I know, and I see what they are capable of and it sets the bar very high for me. I think we all set the bar high for each other. Also, Elizabeth Taylor.