When Dramatic Arts (DART) graduate Avery Delaney began her studies at Brock, she never dreamed she would find her calling behind the scenes in wardrobe — especially in theatrical cobblery.
But that’s where Delany, who graduated June 18 during Brock’s Virtual Spring Convocation, found her stride.
She was recently recognized with the 2021 Marilyn I. Walker Textile Art Award for her creative talent and skilled use of textiles. Presented to a graduating student at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) who shows outstanding work in textiles for artistic expression, the annual award provides recipients with financial support for continuing education or professional development.
Delaney always had a desire to pursue teaching and performance, but a second-year course in stage production and crewing changed the course of her academic journey when she began working in the MIWSFPA costume shop under the guidance of Roberta Doylend, Head of Wardrobe.
Inspired by her love of fashion and design, Delaney began working on costumes for the 2018 DART fall mainstage production of the Greek tragedy Antigone. She assisted Doylend with building and repairing costumes for the production which premiered in the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre.
“Antigone was such a physically demanding show that there were many problems with the actor’s shoes,” Delany said. “Roberta and I had to figure out a solution, and I took on the task of working on the shoes.”
Gaining “confidence by doing,” Delaney discovered her love of theatrical cobblery and the costume shop environment. In her third-year, she got a job working with Doylend assisting with DART productions. During this time, Delaney’s creative exploration with textiles blossomed as she experimented with new materials and methods.
Delaney came to view cobblery and working on shoes as her own creative world with the space to try out new techniques and take chances.
“MIWSFPA staff did an incredible job facilitating this kind of hands-on learning,” she said.
Doylend explained how Marilyn I. Walker created the award to celebrate a student’s passion for art and creativity.
“Watching Avery thrive in the costume shop and find her love of theatrical cobbling in her four years at the MIWSFPA makes her the perfect candidate to have received this award,” Doylend said.
Delaney continued her costuming work on the DART mainstages, building and repairing costumes for the various shows. She began experimenting with painting leather and working with new textiles to create different types of shoes and boots.
As part of her coursework, she was the Head Dresser on Orlando, the 2019 fall mainstage production. She co-ordinated all the footwear for the show, made a costume for Sasha (played by fellow DART student Sid Malcolm) and assisted the second-year production students during the build of the show.
“Following our pivot to remote collaboration and online transmission during the past year of the pandemic, I commend Avery for her perseverance and excellent work for the two graduating students’ productions: as Costume Designer for Concord Floral and Head of Wardrobe for Ouroboros,” said Associate Professor, Scenographer and DART Acting Chair David Vivian. “These polished online productions were a vivid testament to the deep skills of creative collaboration and technical production that our graduates are carrying forth into their post-graduation futures.”
In addition to her studies at the MIWSFPA, Delaney spent time working with the Boot and Shoe Specialist at the Shaw Festival Theatre, Brock DART alumna Sadie Ducroix (BA ’10). Delaney shadowed the professional cobbler as she worked on the Shaw’s 2019 production of Brigadoon, and even painted some of the shoes herself.
Delaney’s acting and costuming skills collided when she both performed in and worked on Perdita or The Winter’s Tale, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic (adapted by Gyllian Raby) performed in spring 2020. Delaney played Florizel and worked in wardrobe helping with bouquets and dresses for the show.
As a designer and actor, she was able to draw on her knowledge of both disciplines to understand the best materials and comfort for costumes and shoes.
“One interest informs the other,” Delaney said. “By allowing my passions to bleed together, I was constantly learning new things.
“The passion I have now, I am grateful to Roberta for. It has been life-changing; I have discovered what I want to pursue as a career and unleashed my passion for this craft,” she said.
“I am happy to have been here to spark her interest and help her follow her dream,” Doylend said. “Now that she has graduated, Avery is continuing her study of this very specialized field and will love her career in theatre as an integral part of a costume team.”
Supported by the Department of Dramatic Arts, Vivian and Doylend, Delaney is set to attend a four-day intensive shoemaking course this fall at Off the Wall at the Stratford Artists Alliance, a centre for excellence in theatre production arts education in Stratford, Ont.
Next year, Delaney will attend a boot and shoemaking course at the Banff Centre for the Arts. She will continue to study her craft as she embarks on her professional career in costuming with a specialization in cobblery, but notes that she still aspires to be on stage.
Performing will always be important to Delaney and she would like to find a healthy balance of her passions.
“My love of performance informs my work in costuming and shoemaking. I have an appreciation for both sides of it, on and off the stage,” she said.