URTA on the Map – University of California, Irvine


URTA on the Map – University of California, Irvine

Who: Holly Durbin, Head of Costume Design
School: University of California, Irvine
City: Irvine, California

What should candidates look for in a training program?

It’s important for a potential student to make a thoughtful match with the faculty, because you will work closely with them for two or three years. That does not mean you have to like them. In fact, there will be times you are very angry because they will not be satisfied unless you rise to your potential. That is a multi-year journey, so the faculty– and you– have to be in it for the long game. They should push you, but at the right time and in the right ways. Budgets may or may not be inadequate, the graduate funding will never be quite enough, facilities are either fabulous or past their prime, shows come and go– those are important considerations too. But when it gets right down to it, you must try to figure out if the faculty offers training that is applicable to your career goals now and ten years from now, and your development as a person and an artist.

What is your favorite class you teach and why?

My favorite class is Design for Themed Entertainment that combines scenic, costume, lighting, sound and stage management/producers to create a large theoretical project of a themed commercial event. Our faculty has worked in TE, and we also add professional guest designers and producers to lead the project with professional standards. Last year the students designed a stand-alone haunted Halloween attraction coached by several design and production executives from Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. Students not only designed and budgeted the attraction, they also learned how to conduct an official industry pitch using digital design tools. I love this class because the projects are always way out of the ordinary –and students always produce some of their best work for this class.

What is your favorite thing about Irvine?

Irvine is in Orange County, California- but we’re not at all like the TV Housewives! Orange County and nearby Los Angeles attract an incredibly rich tapestry of communities representing the entire world– South America, Mexico, many nations in East and South Asia, eastern Europe, etc. About 30% of our population in the OC is foreign born. So I have access to a wild diversity of food, interesting festivals and traditions and a crazy quilt of life that inspires me every day. Here it’s possible to visit a world class museum with medieval manuscripts and a breath taking Japanese garden, attend an Eid al-Fitr Festival to celebrate the end of Ramadan, grab a lunch of the best tacos al pastor you’ve ever had, and then visit the beach for a glass of wine at sunset– all in one day! It’s literally impossible not to be inspired in California.

NOTE on the photo to the right:
One of our theaters is named after Claire Trevor, a movie star sometimes called the Queen of Film Noir. We have her Oscar and her Emmy statuettes on display, embedded in cases in the outside wall of the theater. Very few people actually know they are there until one day they turn a corner and wow! There’s a hidden Oscar! This is one of my favorite spots on campus, precisely because I think UCI is a hidden gem, too, tucked away in Orange County, CA.

How do you commute to the university? Do you feel students need a car or is there sufficient public transportation?

Well you have me here, the legendary traffic-is-our-one-downfall in Southern California. I laughed out loud -as did everyone else in the movie theater -at the opening of LaLaLand because I recognized the exact spot on the freeway the first dance number was filmed. And oh how we wished our commutes included dancing people once in a while! I’m pretty sure someone thought of that film while sitting on the freeway. I do indeed do a traditional freeway commute that I use to study conversational Italian lessons, but é il mio destino! However, the vast majority of our students live nearby. We are a family friendly campus that offers condos on campus for graduate students so most walk or ride a bike every single day – remember it’s always sunny here! There is a campus bus system for shopping nearby and we have a spectacular Farmers Market every Saturday across the street from one of our theaters. So it is easy to make healthy choices all year round- even while a busy grad student. Students do need cars to shop for their designed shows, and they swap with each other or use ZipCars available on campus.

Posted by Olivia Vessel  Posted on 17 Oct 
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