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VSU Costume Exhibit Open in Odum Library

VALDOSTA — “Trust or Bust: The Historical Accuracy of ‘Othello,’” a theatrical costume exhibit, is now open in Valdosta State University’s Odum Library. It is an opportunity for visitors to enjoy the art of costume design while also learning a bit about the importance of maintaining historical accuracy in live theatre.

The exhibit, created by students in VSU’s THEA 3750: Costume History class, features original costumes from VSU Theatre and Dance’s 2019 production of “Othello,” a tragic story of love, jealousy, betrayal, racism, and manipulation by William Shakespeare. (Jacque Wheeler, who retired from VSU in 2020 after more than three decades of service, directed the production.)

Each of the costumes featured in the exhibit was designed by Chalise Ludlow, assistant professor and costume designer at VSU.

The costumes were draped and stitched by students in VSU’s THEA 3720: Theatre Practicum course, as well as theatre scholarship students working in the on-campus costume shop. They worked under the direction of Ludlow and Kathy Raess-Young, costume shop supervisor. (Raess-Young also knitted all the chainmail made for the production.)

“Costume history is very book heavy, and I wanted my students to see how they can use the skills taught in class in a practical way,” Ludlow explained. “Learning to curate clothing is a useful skill for costume historians. I hope that my students realize the amount of work that goes into a museum exhibit and that it is not just about displaying pretty costumes but also the research and knowledge they are sharing with the public.”

VSU’s “Trust or Bust: The Historical Accuracy of ‘Othello’” exhibit will remain on display on the first floor of Odum Library through early May. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to stop by the library and enjoy the collection of costumes, including those worn by student actors portraying Othello, Cassio, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Bianca — and learn a bit about the role of historical accuracy in costume design.

Ludlow said her 2023 Costume History students were tasked with researching the time period of “Othello” — set during the 1570s, when the war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire was heating up — and the historical fashion that would have been worn at that time.

“These costume history students had to apply what we learned in class about historical research and period silhouettes to explain to the viewer how these costumes were historically accurate,” Ludlow shared.

“They learned research skills and how to verify facts versus opinions. They learned how to distill information into bite-sized pieces that did not overwhelm an audience.  They learned how to mount the costumes in a way that showed off the clothing and the work done by the stitchers. They also learned how to create a cohesive exhibit.”

The costume exhibit is presented by VSU Theatre and Dance in collaboration with VSU Archives and Special Collections.

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