For three summers now, Musical Theatre major CharIie Barnett ’19 has put his Sage education to work at the renowned Williamstown Theatre Festival. It began back in 2016, when Barnett visited the Tony Award-winning theatre festival’s website to purchase tickets, and found a link to internship opportunities. “I thought, ‘I’d rather work there’,” he said.
He applied, and was offered a position as a costume design intern. “I already had a passion for costume design,” Barnett said, crediting the Sage Theatre Institute, which offers opportunities to study costume, lighting, directing and other aspects of theatre in addition to performance. He returned to Williamstown last year and this year as wardrobe supervisor for the entire festival.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival produces seven mainstage shows every summer, each with a wardrobe crew of 4 to 15 people. Before each play opens, responsibility for the costumes transfer from the costume designer to Barnett. He ensures the garments for each production remain in spotlight-ready condition, and he choreographs the costume changes that happen on and off the stage. “The audience might not know it, but each time a character comes on in a new outfit, there is a specific dance that takes place backstage. I am in constant communication with stage management during the rehearsal process and I am responsible for training each separate wardrobe crew for each show. It is my job to train them to be the best dressers they can be in a short amount of time.”
Even behind the scenes, he’s had some dramatic moments. “I worked on a musical once where the leading actress’ zipper popped during the change and I was unable to fix it in time, so she went out on stage with an open dress,” he said. “She cleverly walked to the top of the staircase on the stage and I quietly opened the door just enough to slide some pins into the garment.”
Barnett said his experiences at the Sage Theatre Institute and Williamstown Theatre Festival have prepared him for dual roles: “I plan to move to New York City and pursue both the performance and costume world — why choose just one!”