Costume designer brings shows to life unnoticed behind drama club stage
Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer
Behind all the bright lights, layers of makeup, and vibrant performances sits one woman and her needle.
Judy Hershner, the costumer of nearly 14 years for the drama club, didn’t originally think she’d be constructing costumes for a high school.
“I started out sewing as a child and always loved it,” Hershner said. “When I was in high school, I was a student director for a production and found that I was one of the only sewers in our group and so I also put the costumes together for that show. I realized that I liked it and I was good at it, so I went to college for a theatre degree to what did not have a strong theatre program…I left there and moved back to Cincinnati, thinking I would go back to college, then life just started unfolding and the next thing you know, you’re married and you have a kid.”
Raising a family is time-consuming work, according to Hershner, so she spent most of her time sewing things for her friends and church. Hershner said she didn’t think she would ever get back to costuming until her son expressed an interest in theatre as an 8th grader at Princeton.
“The next year when (my son) was in high school, he decided he was going to continue theatre,” Hershner said. “So, I introduced myself to Mr. Young and told him I had a theatre background, specifically in costuming. They already had a costumer… At the end of that school year that costumer said, ‘I’m ready to turn this needle over to you’.”
Eventually, Hershner and Young transitioned from Princeton to Mason together.
“(Young) had been looking for another job and Mason hired him,” Hershner said. “He told me that I was coming with him. So without any questions I did that.”
Hershner said that she considers her current job with the drama club to be her calling.
“I love the creativity,” Hershner said. “I get to use my interest in art and my love of fabric and my love of theatre. I can combine all those three things to kind of paint a living picture. The actors walking around in these costumes are like living art. I also love working with the students.”
Hershner, in addition to producing the costumes for the show, is a mentor to a crew of students who wish to follow in her footsteps.
“They learn how to cut out patterns, how to assemble things on sewing machines, and how to do handwork,” Hershner said. “I stay at the high school because I love teaching and I love watching people’s eyes light up when they’re learning to sew and something works.”
Hershner’s work with students has earned her the title of the “mom” of the drama department, according to director Allen Young.
“Judy is the stabilizing force of our theatre company,” Young said. “She is like the rock… She’s the one working one-on-one with not only our costume crew, but our cast members and our crew members as well. She’s the one that takes care of bandages and boo boos and she’s really kind of the mom of our organization.”
Despite working in Mason since 2001, Hershner’s work goes, for the most part, unnoticed.
“At times, I like it a lot because it is a very solitary work, unless a crew is in here working with me,” Hershner said. “I get a lot of work done by myself in the quiet, so I like that, but I would like for our theatre program to be more understood and appreciated by the district. I’m not saying that they don’t, but a lot of people don’t even know I’m here and I’ve been here for almost 14 years.”
According to Young, however, Hershner’s work is well appreciated throughout the entire
“It’s not a glamorous job and I can’t say it’s a high-paying job, but it’s one that she does out of love,” Young said. “You can tell that in how she interacts with the students and the artistic contribution she makes to our shows. Our costumes are always among the best things about our production.”