During the initial chaos of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a month after Bowdoin’s emergency transition to remote instruction, the Theater and Dance Department hired Lily Prentice ’10 as its newest costume shop manager.
While the fall semester has been unlike any other for the Theater and Dance Department, Prentice still has her hands full with small- and large-scale sewing projects, educating and advising students about the role of costume in the performing arts and organizing the costume shop—all of which the department lacked the time to do during typical, in-person semesters. Both Prentice and Theater and Dance Technical Director Deb Phul and have been thankful for the opportunity to accomplish these tasks without the added pressure of a busy production schedule.
After graduating from Bowdoin and working in costume shops in the New England area and across the country, Prentice moved to New York City, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
“I felt very grateful for the opportunity to move to New York, but [to still be] under the auspices of the [Tisch] School program,” said Prentice in a phone interview with the Orient.
The relationships that Prentice forged in New York City made her an ideal candidate for the position at Bowdoin. Phul believes that Prentice’s experience in one of the industry’s most prominent cities will bring new perspective and opportunity to the department.
“She is so connected to the New York community, which ripples out because the theater world is large and small at the same time,” said Puhl in a phone interview with the Orient. “Lily knows so many new designers … [and] has connections that we don’t have.”
Along with her work as a costumer and an educator, Prentice plans to be a motivator by empowering theater and dance students.
“I want to be able to encourage the students who come through the costume shop to know their self worth and then be able to advocate for themselves and their teammates,” Prentice said.
Prentice also intends to address racial inequity in the theater industry and wants the Bowdoin costume shop to be an inclusive and supportive environment for all students.
“We’re working on our anti-racist pedagogy, and Lily has been very involved in the New York [Black Lives Matter] movement,” Puhl said. “It’s nice that she can also bring that knowledge and energy with her.”
“I want to help the next generation of theater artists change those really harmful systems in our industry into something that’s truly collaborative, takes everyone’s point of view into account and provides access to everyone who has a story to tell,” Prentice added.
Prentice is excited for the chance to return to Bowdoin, this time as a faculty member rather than a student. She believes that her time at Bowdoin as a visual arts major and English minor equipped her with the critical thinking skills necessary for a job in the arts.
“I’ve always hung onto … the curiosity that is encouraged by the liberal arts curriculum and the questions we were taught to ask,” Prentice said. “When I read a script, I really turn on that part of my brain and think, ‘what’s my point of view on this?’, and those skills were at least ignited at Bowdoin.”
The future of remote instruction at the College is ever-changing, but Phul is confident that Prentice will be an asset to the department.
“It’s just what you need during the pandemic—somebody who is so positive about everything and really brings a lot of good will and warmth and excitement with her into the semester,” said Puhl. “We’re all very excited to have Lily join us.”
While Prentice’s first semester at Bowdoin might not be conventional, her passion for collaboration propels her work. She hopes to foster a creative and educational environment despite the distance.
“I love working with other people—that’s probably my favorite part of working in the theater, which is ironic,” Prentice said. “But I’m trying to keep the spirit alive.”