Artful ELAC student creates skillful costume designs

By S. Hennessy Machado-Hildago

For East Los Angeles College student Jimmy Kuang the art of design is all about the details.

Kuang’s attention to detail has earned him the position of costume design assistant to ELAC theater faculty member Jessica Hansen. The pair are workng on “Cindy & the Discoball: The Musical” showing at the Garry Marshall Theatre.

Hansen is an award-winning freelance costume designer and technician.

As costume-design assistant, Kuang was responsible for returning bought items, making costume alterations and building the costumes.

Building costumes consists of making a pattern to follow for cutting out fabric pieces, sewing those pieces together, fitting the costume to each actor and making the necessary alterations.

At a tailor shop, the person being fitted may be asked to move their limbs a bit for the tailor to make the fit comfortable.

For a performance filled with back-to-back sensational musical numbers “Cindy & the Discoball: The Musical,” Kuang had to be mindful of how a costume moves and stretches with a performer as they dance.

When many people think of theater they may think of how the actors bring a play to life. Actors undoubtedly play an essential role. However people working behind-the-scenes, like Kuang, leave their mark on a play just the same. 

However, so do all the behind the scenes people in the theater.

For every moment of performance enjoyed by an audience member for “Cindy and The Discoball,” Kuang left his signature in the costumes’ movement. 

He sat in those same seats during rehearsals looking up at the stage and back down to his notebook. 

Kuang would note the practicality of how the costume does or doesn’t stretch. He would note the aesthetic nature of how much glitter is catching the light and how the costumes were contributing to the feel the scenes were delivering.

The way Kuang described his duties quite simplistically understand the great role he played in cultivating the magic of the play.

Upon walking into the ELAC costume shop where Kuang works. Kuang exudes a quiet charisma among his shy design department fellow students.

 The students called Kuang a star after his work in “Cindy & the Discoball: The Musical.”

Kuang, in his bright apricot colored button-up and slacks, gave his peers an eye-roll and a small smile.

His humble demeanor and aptitude for design seems to be a recipe for getting along with those who wield their starpower directly on the theater stage. Kuang said  he enjoys creating trust between himself and the actors he costumes. 

He did not originally intend to pursue costume design, but once he saw how his fine art skills lend themselves to costume design it seemed like a great fit.

After deciding to pursue costume design, Kuang learned his grandfather was a Chinese opera singer.

It seems that starpower does indeed run in his veins.

Given this information, it may not come as a surprise that another family member of his shares a similarity.

Kuang said his father is also a creative type. His father draws models for toys. Artistic talent seems to run in his family.

Kuang carries on his family’s creative legacy through great dedication and the relentless cultivation of his skill.

Kuang is already working with Hansen on a new project for an upcoming play at ELAC. 

He plans to continue pursuing career opportunities once he completes his certificates in the Theater Department. 

Both of these certificates are focused on costume design and construction.

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