The universal art of storytelling brings us together by connecting with our experiences and realities. The performance space is a place of experimentation and collaboration, a network of multiple efforts leading to a communal experience transcending time and place. Designers serve a wide variety of purposes during these experiences. From establishing the mood to reinforcing a character arch, every visual decision appeals to our perception and communicates beyond the realm of words. As a scenographer, I believe in the importance of teaching design from a multidisciplinary and multicultural perspective. This approach allows the students to understand how the different design elements intertwine and affect each other.
When approaching a play or performance, we are instinctively compelled to reach inside our own experiences and identities; in the same way, thus when we are creating theatre, we are inherently expressing our identities and our cultures. Coming from an international and multicultural background, I have learned that teaching for diversity is a way to build bridges that can create deeper connections in the classroom. Acknowledging the different realities that compose an individual is fundamental. That is why weaving in the intersectional perspective is essential for me.
Creative collaboration and learning start with building a healthy community. Sharing and listening to each other are actions that make possible the work we do on the stage and in the classroom; thus, building trust is essential to successfully engage in the learning process. I believe that teaching starts from hearing, understanding, and respecting the student's individual and collective needs. Creativity and learning flourish when students feel safe, respected, and heard--when they see themselves in the curriculum and explore their ideas in an encouraging environment. That's why I believe in the importance of representation at all levels. In my classes, I make sure to present the perspective of BIPOC, trans and different-abled characters, designers, and artists. Also, I ensure my students understand and become aware of their implicit and explicit biases. Through discussions, lectures, and exercises, my students leave the classroom with a higher level of self-awareness and critical thinking.
Self-awareness is essential because the costume designer's workspace is the human body. We design garments, hairstyles, and makeup plots worn by cast members. I ensure that my students receive the necessary skills to develop a body-positive, antiracist, and trans-affirmative approach to design and rendering. When I am teaching costume design, I make sure that my students honor each member of the cast's individuality and make decisions that respect and celebrate their diversity. Through drawing and painting techniques and anatomy lessons, I teach my students how to appropriately represent and understand different body types, hair textures, skin tones, and undertones. This ability allows the students to be respectful and mindful of their design subjects' unique features, creating a much more effective and intentional design.
Research and conceptualization are crucial skills for the discipline of costume design. I strive to provide my students with research skills that allow them to understand the role of design in a global context. Last summer, I participated in the Undergraduate Research Institute to redesign the History of Period Styles course to create a class with an intersectionality approach. My main goal in teaching costume history is to teach students how to conduct visual contextual research from a culturally aware perspective instead of requiring them to memorize facts about Western period styles. This shift is essential because it decolonizes the curriculum and prepares the students to conduct visual research from an intersectional approach, encouraging them to find solutions through critical thinking.
Teaching has been one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. It is a role that has allowed me to use the power of intentional and creative expression to celebrate diversity in all of its forms. I am consistently looking for tools and resources to create more engaging teaching experiences and establish connections that lead to a more just, kind, and inclusive world.