Jeremiah Hines’ senior theater project, “Redefine Me,” is breaking the norms: of gender, American culture, costume design, and senior projects themselves. “Redefine Me” is a costume showcase which will be performed April 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) Lee Eshleman Studio Theater.
Traditionally, senior projects have been staged performances or written theses. But Hines envisioned a costume show with designs based on architecture he saw during the Central Europe cross-cultural last semester. His cross-cultural leader, Professor Justin Poole, agreed to advise the project.
Senior theater projects, Poole says, are “a place for students to experiment and take the art they’ve been working on for four years in new directions … and do it in a way that’s going to help them further enhance their creative expressions.”
Once in Europe, however, Hines was inspired by more than just art and architecture.
“Everything is less constricted within society,” he explains. He particularly noticed the contrast in rigidity between American and European gender roles.
In the show, traditionally male clothing will be worn by female actors. However, a formal gown inspired by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s work will be displayed on a mannequin.
“It was hard to get men who are willing to wear clothing that would not be considered men’s clothing. So I’m embracing that … it’s a part of our community, and something we need to address,” says Hines. Other pieces were inspired by a clock tower in Prague, Austrian Jewish folklore and a Parisian experimental theater piece reflecting on European religiosity.
“I want to try to break away from that strong dichotomy of male and female. I want to show that it’s a spectrum. Also, if you feel you fit into that strong dichotomy, what that looks like is going to be very different to different people.”
Another norm Hines eschews in “Redefine Me” is buying new materials to create costumes. While he has a rich history of involvement in EMU drama – from student-run GONZO theater to Mainstage productions – last spring’s The Prophet was his first experience both designing and constructing costumes.
“I found that with creating costumes from new material, there’s a lot of waste involved,” he says. Hines is using that “waste” from The Prophet, as well as donated and thrift shop-bought materials, to create all the costumes in “Redefine Me.” Also unique is his method of “devised costuming,” in which he provides materials, designs, and direction to a team who influences the finished costume as they construct it.
“I’m excited to see what happens,” says Poole.
Hines has loved theater since childhood, when his family attended performances at James Madison University. He entered EMU as an education major, but a Theater for Youth and Children class with Professor Heidi Winters Vogel caused him to rethink. Along with Poole and theater major Ezrionna Prioleau, he’s volunteered with On the Road Collaborative to bring after-school theatrical expression to Skyline Middle School students.
“It was a natural progression” into theater, he says, “because that’s what I really love.” After graduation, Hines plans to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue theater production or movement-based drama.
Hines stresses that all are welcome and all will encounter the unexpected at “Redefine Me.”
“I would encourage anyone to come and see the interactive gallery no matter what they know about it, no matter how they might think they’ll feel about it.”