A New Face in Hope’s Theatre and Dance Costume Shop

This past year, the theatre and dance department said goodbye to their costume shop manager Darlene Veenstra after 22 years. With that being said, there was a new position that needed to be filled and it was filled by Anna Hill.

Past Projects and Education 

Anna Hill is the new costume manager for the theatre department, as well as the new costume designer for the dance department. She is from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and attended Concordia University. Hill started off as an actor but found herself more excited to work on the projects she was creating in the costume and scene shops than on her acting. Hill graduated from Concordia with her self-made undergraduate degree in Theatre Design which she describes as a half theatre and half art major. 

After graduating, Hill spent two years freelancing in the Twin Cities area. She was mostly hired as a scenic builder, doing a type of on-call construction with lots of scenic and lighting projects. She began by designing props during the first bit of her freelancing but quickly moved to costumes. Hill became more involved in designing costumes for dance once she joined the Spring into Dance program at Concordia following her graduation. Through her work of two years on this annual concert of dance shows, Hill realized she “really really liked designing for dance.” 

This design was created for a piece called Critical Mass, performed at Illinois State University in 2016. The white stripes were individually created on each dancer’s costume to emphasize the specific move or motif that that dancer performed. Additionally, the colored patches were hidden in the beginning of the dance and the dancers slowly revealed them as the dance went on changing the world and mood from black and white to full of color. 

The process for designing dance costumes goes like this: 

  1. Hill starts by talking with the choreographer to get a feel for the specific message or theme of the piece. She will also discuss the functionality of the costumes such as what type of shoes they will need or what kind of rolls and jumps require certain flexibility in the fabrics. 
  2. Then, she will listen to the music and attend a rehearsal, taking pictures and videos so that she can more accurately create costumes that fit the mood of the piece as well as the movement. 
  3. While actually making the costumes, Hill will have dancers try on the costumes and will add individuality or alterations as the piece is created. 
  4. Come tech week, she sees how the costumes look onstage with choreography and applies any final alterations that are needed for the functionality or overall look of the costumes. 

While working with Spring into Dance, Hill decided she wanted to do more work in designing and realized she “had a strong desire to become an expert in a category”- costume design. Moreover, Hill attended graduate school at Illinois State University where she graduated with an MFA in Costume Design in 2017. 

During graduate school, she continued moving in the direction of dance design, taking up projects as she was able. After graduating, Hill returned to Minnesota and Concordia University where she worked as the costume designer and manager for five years and returned to work on the Spring into Dance concerts.

A design of Hill’s from Waiting for Godot, directed by Tim McVean. Photo Credit- Lauren B.

Onward to Hope 

After five years of working at her alma mater, Hill decided it was time for a change and heard about the open position at Hope College. Around the same time, her husband’s family moved to Saginaw, Michigan, so she was already in Michigan to visit during the time of the interview process. She started to feel like Hope would be a “good spot for the foreseeable future” and that this job “is an opportunity that God is putting before us” that she and her family should pursue.

Costume designing in college is attractive for Hill as she is very passionate about education. Her dad was a teacher, which influenced her life. “Even before I knew theatre was going to be part of my life, I knew education was going to be part of my life,” Hill said. What she enjoys most about being in an education setting is getting to see students discover and figure things out and “making that leap from being frustrated with a sewing machine to really enjoying working on a sewing machine.”

Hill is the costume manager for the theatre department and a designer for the dance department here at Hope. In her previous position at Concordia, she was everything: designer for theatre and dance, a professor, as well costume stock manager. Hill said her position at Hope has been a “really nice shift” for her as she is able to “enter into a place where I’m part of a team and not just the only one doing it.”

Hill says she is both excited and nervous about this school year. She is “really excited to have students here and to start work” and is particularly excited about the number of students who applied for work in the costume department. This has ensured that “we’ll have a nice big team this year.” Hill acknowledged that a larger staff comes with “a lot of work and organization on my end” so she is “nervous to make sure [she is] prepared for everything.” She explained that with seven people working at a time it’s “really great if [she’s] super prepared” but if she’s not, then she could be “wasting seven people’s time.” With that pressure comes the added layer of being new to the school and making sure she knows the department’s capacity, for as she says, “that’s something I’ll have to feel out from week to week and learn fast.”

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