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ART student creates costumes for ‘The Tempest’

MUHS junior Mirabelle Markowski, costume designer for the Addison Repertory Theatre’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” sewed a lot of American Girl Doll clothing as a kid. Now she creates costumes for school productions.

Photo / Oliver Parini 

She’s 17. She lives in Bridport. She likes sewing.

Meet Mirabelle Markowski.

Hang on, to say Markowski “likes sewing” is an understatement. She not only likes it; she crushes it. Markowski, a junior at Middlebury Union High School and in her first year in the Addison Repertory Theatre (ART) at the Hannaford Career Center, has designed and fabricated almost all the costume pieces used in ART’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

The show will take the stage at the ART’s Black Box Theater on Charles Avenue in Middlebury next Thursday through Saturday, March 7, 8 and 9. It features 15 students and ART Director Eric Reid-St. John.

“I’m playing Prospero,” Reid-St. John said, who moved to Vergennes in 2018 to take the job as director of the ART program. “This is the first time I’ve been on stage with students… We have a wonderful cast of students in this production. I’m lucky every year, but especially this year. It’s been a lot of fun!”

There are five tech crew students, nine student actors and one student stage manager. 

MIRABELLE MARKOWSKI HAS been hard at work creating the costumes for ART’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Photo by Oliver Parini

“Notable on this production is the work by Mirabelle Markowski,” Reid-St. John pointed out. “She is a wonderfully creative person. She’s able to take that creativity and produce tangible things — it’s an incredible thing to watch.”

“I’ve been sewing since I can remember,” Markowski said in an interview last week. “My mom had a sewing studio as a hobby… we used to make a lot of American Girl Doll clothes together. I would make the first little bit and then she would finish it for me.”

Markowski credit’s her mom Jennifer Roberts (former owner of Daily Chocolates in Vergennes) for helping her learn different sewing techniques and how to get through “finicky parts that can be annoying.”

So when Markowski entered the ART program and took the role of costume designer, she was prepped to excel. 

“Last year I did the costumes for ‘Music Man’ and ‘Madagascar’ and this year, I did ‘Frozen’ and ‘Legally Blonde,’” Markowski said. “A lot of the work has been alterations and costume design… The work for ‘The Tempest’ is the first time I’ve done everything from start to finish — from drawing the look, to making the templates, to creating the clothes and finishing with alterations and accessories.”

Mirabelle Markowski is hard at work creating the costumes for ART’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Photo by Oliver Parini

Markowski has leaned the look of the costumes for this production of “The Tempest” toward a “timeless old-fashioned look, with peasant shirts and short pants.”

“She’s got this system,” Reid-St. John said. “She is really good at planning and can move at a very quick pace. To come in, visualize what needs to be done and complete it in a matter of hours is an incredible thing to do. She had an idea for the look of the show, and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’”

The ART class is a year long, but the crew started on this production project only in late December, Reid-St. John clarified: “She’s really been at it for maybe only three weeks.”

“I really enjoy being part of the theater community,” Markowski said. “Sewing is just a fun hobby, and a really cool way to get clothes. You can make exactly what you want.”

Like, for example, who likes to throw out their favorite pair of jeans? Answer: no one. Especially not Markowski. What does she do instead? Why mend them, of course. 

“I patch the inseams and holes; I add new pockets… it makes them more sustainable and you can keep wearing them,” Markowski said. Win-win! 

“TO COME IN, visualize what needs to be done and complete it in a matter of hours is an incredible thing to do,” says ART Director Eric Reid-St. John about Markowski’s work.

Markowski has also made herself a formal dress, tailored pants and overalls.

“I love it when people say, ‘Wow, I love what you’re wearing.’ And I can answer ‘Thanks, I made it,’” Markowski said, adding, “You do get some injuries sewing… you wouldn’t think of sewing as a dangerous hobby, but I’m constantly stabbing myself with pins.”

But even that doesn’t slow her down.

“When you’re working as a costume designer and creator in theater, you just do it in the time you have; you can’t always pass it on to someone else,” Markowski said. “I need the deadline… Deadlines help me finish the projects.”

“In the 20 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve only had a handful of students be able to actually produce the costumes,” Reid-St. John said, confirming Markowski’s skill. “It’s kind of rare… there is incredible possibility in her future. Many students take on a leadership role in the second year of the ART program; and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mirabelle will do next year.”

In addition to Markowski’s costume design and creation, Reid-St. John complemented the student actors’ ability to play multiple roles, and at times “change roles in front of the audience.” He also noted that the tech crew has created a set that allows for “interesting blocking and movement,” lighting that is “beautiful,” and a sound design that allows for a unique immersive experience. 

“It’s a really pretty show,” Reid-St. John summarized.

Mark your calendars to see this abbreviated 90-minute production of “The Tempest,” March 7-9. Tickets are $10, and are available online at addisonrep.ludus.com/index.php. 

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