College of Charleston alum Janine McCabe is frankly surprised to find herself back in Charleston, but she’s not complaining. After graduating eight years ago with a degree in theatre from the School of the Arts – her area of concentration was not in the scenes but, rather, behind them, in the costume shop – the New Jersey native earned an MFA in costume design at University of Virginia. An internship in New York City with longtime Broadway costume designer Martin Pakledinaz (La Cage aux Folles, The Diary of Anne Frank, Thoroughly Modern Millie) followed, after which McCabe decided she was ready for her own shot at the Great White Way – though again, beyond the footlights, which is where she likes it.
In New York, McCabe assisted costumer Gregory Gell on Broadway’s adaptation of The Wedding Singer. A show she designed herself last summer, the F. Scott Fitzgerald play Waiting for the Moon at Lenope Regional Performing Arts center in Philadelphia, received eight Barrymore Award nominations last week – including one for costume design.
“I’ve spent the past four years working as an assistant to costume designers on Broadway shows, and also doing my own design on some Off Off Broadway shows,” says McCabe from her cozy office in the costume shop of the School of the Arts’ Emmett Robinson Theatre. Back on turf she left for good, or so it seemed, eight years ago, McCabe’s just embarked on a new role she’s trying on for size: that of a temporary faculty member at CofC, where she’s teaching three courses in costuming this term and next, and designing costumes for November’s production of Arms and the Man.
While here, McCabe’s also mulling the possibility of designing her own fashion line (“When I started in costuming, it was because I knew how to sew and I made my own clothes, so it would be a little like coming back to that”), and she and her new husband, artist Scott Debus, have opened a working gallery in their home at 53 Bogard St. downtown, called Bogard Street Gallery, which has its premiere opening this Fri., Sept. 5.
“I don’t feel like I have to make it on Broadway or receive awards. I don’t feel like I need fame or fortune to be successful. I just want to be able to design and enjoy my time.” –Patrick Sharbaugh