Thursday, December 3, 2020

Retired Costumer’s memory lives on in the theater department

SUNY Plattsburgh theater alumna Elizabeth Marie Barber died Saturday, Aug 24. She ran the costume shop in the Myers Fine Arts building; barber was responsible for assisting students with the costumes they needed for a show. However, SUNY Plattsburgh Technical Director and adjunct lecturer of theater Ben Wright said Barber would go above and beyond when it came to her work in the department.

“She was guilty of over-designing in a good way,” Wright said. “The amount of work put into a costume built from scratch would be amazing.”

Wright is in charge of creating background for show scenes and along with lights, sounds and other technical aspects. He and Barber worked on about 50 shows over the course of 18 years. These shows included “She Kills Monsters”, “Oklahoma” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Each took months to coordinate.

Barber created costumes for student plays. Barber assisted students with research of different time periods and styles. Wright said show attire required background research into the main theme of the show. Research for a costume is based on the character portrayed in the show.

Barber would make time to analyze the scripts to get the costume just right for the student’s character.

“She put her heart and soul into every show,” Wright said.

Wright believes the love and compassion Barber established in her costume shop will be difficult to retain after her death.

Barber’s memory in the Myers Fine Arts Building with costume cutter and draper Amy Robinson. Robinson assumed a position as a local Bridal Boutique seamstress when Barber decided to move on. The two began working together some time later when Barber invited Robinson to assist in the costume shop.

“There are a lot of memories,” Amy said. “Wonderful lady.”

Robinson described her as a phenomenal seamstress, loving, caring and funny person Barber enjoyed making others laugh with her quips.

Barber created strong bonds with both her colleagues and students while running the costume shop. Several would even call her a mother-figure.

“Marie was a really influential figure in my academic life and my personal life,” SUNY Plattsburgh senior Angel Martinez said. “She was the first teacher that taught me passion. Taught in the sense of using it and incorporating it into your craft while truly being connected with what you’re doing.”

Martinez encountered Barber while taking her sewing course his freshman year. He described her energy as “good vibes right off the bat.” He got close to her the following spring semester when he took her sewing lab class with Barber.

“I’m never going to have that trusty phone call where I know I can call [Barber] to steer me straight when I’m lost,” Angel said. “She is truly missed by me.”

Martinez, much like barber, has an interest in costuming and design. He has designed attire for shows performed at SUNY Plattsburgh. He attributes his knowledge to Barber’s guidance.

“She was like a mother,” Martinezl said. “She was kind. she was stern. She was a very powerful symbol.”

Martinez described his college life as a bridge. Naturally, bridges contain pillars to keep them up no matter what. Angel said Barber was a particularly strong pillar that kept him up and leveled.

Barber’s mark on SUNY Plattsburgh individuals and the school itself will prove to last a lifetime, according to her students and colleauges.

“The thoroughness of her costuming, the extensive amount of knowledge she had, the know-how and technique[of costuming] totally unique to her,” Martinez said. “We could only hope to get a costumer that could be as good as [Barber].”

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