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Helping Characters Come to Life

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    Andja Budincich works on a costume for the Theatre Department's production of "Tartuffe."

Passion for costume design earns senior theatre and art history major the 2014 Passion for the Arts Award

During her four years at Southwestern, senior theatre and art history major Andja Budincich has never been cast in a show.

But that’s just fine with her. Budincich prefers to spend her time behind the scenes, making the costumes that help the characters come to life. She has worked on all but three of the main stage productions at Southwestern the past four years and is costume coordinator for the spring 2014 production of “Gypsy.”

In addition to making costumes, Budincich has operated the light board, ushered, managed props, and helped with several other behind-the-scenes jobs. Her contributions to the Sarofim School of Fine Arts helped earn her the 2014 Fayez Sarofim Passion for the Arts Award, which is presented annually to the graduating senior who, regardless of major, has demonstrated an unusual passion for the arts during their career at Southwestern. It includes a cash prize that can be used any way the recipient wants.

“I was so surprised and jazzed to receive this award,” Budincich said. “I never expected to receive this award because what I do is not physically visible in the same way that acting is.”

Budincich plans to use the funds to help pay for graduate school. She had offers from numerous schools – including assistantship offers from five programs – but settled on the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she will pursue a MFA in costume design.

Even though she knew she wanted to pursue costume design after she graduated from college, Budincich said it was very important to her to go to a liberal arts school instead of a conservatory. She heard about Southwestern through the book 40 Colleges That Change Lives.

“When I visited Southwestern it just felt like it was the right place for me to be − I call it the click factor,” Budincich said. “I needed to get out of California, and out of my comfort zone. Texas certainly fit the bill.”

Budincich said another reason she chose Southwestern was for its Art History Department. “I can’t stress enough how amazing the Art History Department is here,” she said. “I was hoping I’d be able to double major, and I did.”

Although most graduate programs don’t take students right out of undergraduate school, Budincich said the fact that she had four years of costume design experience at Southwestern, plus experience in high school, made her attractive to recruiters.

“Most students find their way to costumes when they go to undergrad thinking they want to act,” Budincich said. “When I love something − and it is probably evident that I love costume − I give it everything I have to give. I don’t do halfway. I think my energy and enthusiasm for learning and theatre was exciting to recruiters. And the fact that I have a background in art history was something that many recruiters were very impressed by. I also think that the stress on interdisciplinary thinking at Southwestern gave me opportunities to talk about how my interest in theatre intersects with issues of sustainability and social justice.”

Budincich plans to spend the summer working in the costume shop at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont before she heads to North Carolina in the fall.

−       Daniel Dumitru