Student Spotlight: Armando Ortiz '19 inspires with costumes

by Shera Bhala | 10/18/18 2:00am

Costumes for theater characters reflect their personas and emphasize their individuality. Armando Ortiz Jr. ’19 understands this sentiment exactly. He is a behind-the-scenes costume designer, imagining, creating and perfecting the outfits of many characters.

A dedicated member of the theater department, Ortiz began working in the costume shop his freshman year. He started as a wardrobe assistant, tagging clothes and setting up backstage for Dartmouth’s production of “Don Juan Comes Back From The War.” Ortiz said he really enjoyed working as a wardrobe assistant, a position he continued with for the 2016 production of “Chicago.” He also took Theater 48, “Costume Design,” an introductory course that teaches the principles of texture, color and line. Theater professor Laurie Churba, his teacher and mentor, inspired him to give costume design a try, he said.

Immersing himself in the world of costume design, Ortiz has designed outfits for three plays during his time at Dartmouth. “What Every Girl Should Know,” the first play Ortiz designed costumes for, involved early 20th century style gown-type dresses for Catholic schoolgirl characters.

“It was challenging to give them personality ... [because] they wore very monochrome Catholic school uniforms,” Ortiz said.

However, he said he was still able to create some variety in the uniforms, and finds that this was a good exercise in creativity and the use of line and form.

During the summer term of 2017, Armando created the costumes for the original play “If It Isn’t You” by Tess McGuinness ’18, outfitting the actors in clothes with a theme of purple and blue. Ortiz said that this color scheme created “a kind of dream-like, failed love type of feeling” that he believes was the perfect mood for the play.

Jennifer Bilbo, the costume shop manager and one of Ortiz’s mentors, worked with him on this show set in college and said she learned a lot from him about the lifestyles and clothes of college students.

Most recently, Ortiz designed the costumes for “Hair,” directed by Virginia Ogden ’18, in a large production that involved 90 costumes and more than 100 quick changes. Citing his designs for this show, Ortiz said he finds these pieces to be the ones of which he is most proud.

“It made a lot of sense for him to be on that project, and he did such a good job,” Churba said.

The costumes were a challenge because so many had to be designed, and Ortiz wanted them to be colorful while retaining a certain individuality for each character, he said.

Bilbo said she believed he was very successful with the costumes and that she admires how Ortiz took time to speak with each actor about their personal social views. This was reflected in the character’s clothing, she said. Although there were challenges, Ortiz said he is very proud of the amount of work that he completed. He found himself inspired by the team for “Hair” and takes pride in the design coherence they created together.

Bilbo remembers working with Ortiz when he was a freshman and recalled that “he was excited by all of it.” Applauding him for his attention to personality, she said he thinks deeply about character in a show. Churba said she enjoys working with Ortiz as well, explaining that he approaches each project with infectious enthusiasm.

Ortiz said he finds that he has been consistently challenged in designing costumes and has learned not to hyperfocus on color and to be more cognizant of form and shapes. He has also learned to find a balance between school, work, costume design and extracurriculars. And while he is not designing this fall, he is thinking about it for next term.

As for the future, Ortiz is uncertain but excited. He is a psychology major and a theater minor with an effervescent personality and an inspiring passion for costume design. His enthusiasm for costume design is like most passions — an enduring love for a discipline that attracts one’s curiosity and intellect.

“I definitely want to be involved with theater after Dartmouth … whether it be through wardrobe assisting or costume designing,” he said.

While he may not know for certain what his future entails, it is potentially filled with colorful costumes, a large stage and sparkling lights.