By Rebecca Bowyer
As a Harpur College sophomore, Pamela Ghigliotti decided to take what she thought would be a schedule-filling theatre class to check off a major requirement. It ended up re-shaping her entire college education.
"I started off in theatre concentrating in dance, and needing a tech course for my major requirement, so I took costume design," she said. "I really enjoyed it and I really liked the professor."
Her interest in costume design expanded when the instructor, Adjunct Lecturer Andrea Lenci-Cerchiara, asked her to help design for the "Cosmogony" dance show in April 2013. Since then, Ghigliotti has been involved in theatre productions such as "Seven Deadly Sins," "A Chorus Line" and "Don't Dress for Dinner."
"The really interesting thing about costume design is everything that goes into it. It's not just picking out clothing, but it's the backstory of a character—what the costume should really say about the person," Ghigliotti said. "There's really so much in the behind-the-scenes thought process. There's paperwork and research that goes into costumes that no one really thinks about."
The Theatre Department encouraged Ghigliotti to turn her casual interest into a creative passion. The senior from Medford, Mass., is double-majoring in theatre technical design and English rhetoric. Instead of clashing with theatre, her English major has only enhanced her experience.
"I have enjoyed double-majoring and being able to see both ends of things and being able to have a solid foundation in English and writing and reading," Ghigliotti said, as she fiddled with the loose ends of her Binghamton scarf. "It's not just me picking out clothes: It's reading a play or a script and understanding the characters and being able to take in the themes and what should be represented. I feel like there's a lot of hand-in-hand there."
Ghigliotti said she found a niche for herself in a department that thrives off getting people actively involved with one another. Because of the small size of the department, students are able to form close connections with their peers.
"It's very hands-on all around, and they really want to get you exposed to everything," she said. "So no matter if you're an actor, a dancer or a designer of any sort, you have to do credit hours in both the scene shop and costume shop, and you have to work on shows. You could be starring in a show, but then be working on the sets during the day because you have to get credit from there."
A costume designer has to please their peers while still maintaining a sense of their own vision. It's a lot of collaboration, with a pinch of imagination. Ghigliotti has taken these themes and incorporated them in her life away from the stage.
She is the head residential assistant for O'Connor Hall in the Dickinson Community, helping to manage the building and oversee a staff of RAs. She's also the program coordinator for the Student Ambassadors through the Undergraduate Admissions Office and was an RA in Cayuga Hall for a year and a half.
Ghigliotti wants to help students make the most out of their four years at school, like she did. She is helping them build themselves, like she builds characters on set: supplying them with options and letting the situation unfold.
"I've had such a wonderful experience here and I really have felt like this place is my home, and my dorm is my home. I want that for other people," Ghigliotti said. "I think everyone should have that college experience."
Ghigliotti said her experiences since freshman year have shaped her future career path, but it was an unexpected one. Most college students don't know that student affairs is a career, and the theatre major was no exception.
"I originally wanted to go into communications," Ghigliotti said. "But then I got involved in a bunch of different things. I was doing Student Ambassadors. I wanted to do orientation. I was willingly choosing to do all these things and wrap myself in the University and school. I thought: Why not make a career out of it, if it can be a career?"
Although she said she doesn't plan on doing anything directly related to her two degrees once she graduates in May, she said her love of helping people stems from her roots in the Theatre Department.
Ghigliotti tied her various involvements within the University to her position behind the curtain at a show. She said wanting to be a resource to those around her comes from her involvement in the arts.
She recommended that incoming students rethink putting aside their love of the arts, as it can only improve their time at Binghamton.
"It allows you to explore so many things that you might have taken for granted," she said. "It's really easy to get bogged down with heavy coursework and to forget all the things that you've done in the past and enjoyed. I think so many people are involved with theater and music in high school, and they get here and they just don't have time for it. It's a great outlet. There's so much to it that you don't even realize. There's so much you can learn and benefit from."
Last Updated: 3/1/17