December 10, 2007

Costumer stitches Sac State productions

Nina Pinckard is literally engulfed in her work as Sacramento State’s costume technician, seen here working with student assistants Katherine Dudney and Meg Masterson. Nina Pinckard is literally engulfed in her work as Sacramento State’s costume technician, seen here working with student assistants Katherine Dudney and Meg Masterson.

Some people involved with stage productions will tell you the theater is in their blood. Sacramento State costume technician Nina Pinckard certainly gives her life’s blood to the stage—at the University and beyond.

She’s been helping to sew, stitch and collect costumes for the department for about 30 years, with a brief hiatus to pursue careers in the professional theater.

Up until recently, she worked with the costume professor who did the department’s design work. But two years ago that instructor retired, and the position was not refilled. “I’m the only person in costuming right now,” Pinckard says in a quiet, modest voice as she stitches a knitted quilt in the department’s costume shop, assisted by a quartet of students.

The department does hire out some of the design work, and Pinckard notes that an idea for a costume can come up even on off hours. “Design work doesn’t actually happen between eight and five,” she says. Still the added work also means more shopping for fabrics and other items. “It’s been a big change.”

Dance performances pose their own challenges. Pinckard notes that the recent Dance Sites program of faculty choreographed numbers included more than 50 students in eight separate dance numbers. “That’s like working on eight mini shows,” she says.

And the performances overlap. During this particular stretch, Pinckard was working on Loose Knit, Dance Sites and The Afghan Women. “And the script for 42nd Street is on my desk,” she laughs.

Department chairwoman Linda Goodrich praises Pinckard’s performance in taking on the extra work load. “She’s just been tremendous,” Goodrich says. “We wouldn’t have costumes on stage without Nina.”

Pinckard brings extensive experience to the department. During a three-year hiatus 20 years ago she worked with Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y., the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, San Francisco Opera, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. “I once even went to Hawaii Opera Theatre,” she says.

She tackles even more theater during her time off. For 17 years she managed the costume shop and later served as production manager for the Summer Repertory Theatre at Santa Rosa Junior College and has worked as a designer for Sacramento’s Music Circus. She’s designed costumes for the State Fair and arranged several of the county exhibit booths there as well. And she performs at schools and other venues with Puppets in Motion.

The biggest challenge—and most fun—comes from making costumes for fantasy shows. For The Owl and the Pussycat Went to Sea a few years back Pinckard worked with foam rubber to create some of the creatures in the popular children’s story. “It was like working for Disney,” she says.

And sometimes she even identifies with a character in the play. The recent production of Loose Knit included a woman who has a nervous breakdown, and spends two weeks knitting everything from ceiling-to-floor quilts, to plants, and even a coat rack cozy. Pinckard understands the character’s fascination. “I have a closet full of fabric I’ve purchased and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it,” she laughs.

For more information about the Theatre and Dance Department, call 278-6368 or go to www.csus.edu/dram/.