Behind the Curtain Q&A: Costume Shop Manager Mark Nagle


Mark Nagle is the manager of The Rep’s Costume Shop, located on the third level of the theatre. Most of the costumes worn in the six MainStage shows each season have been created by hand right in the shop.

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

With Memphis starting in a couple of weeks, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight someone who is part of the creative force behind the costumes you see on stage: Costume Shop Manager Mark Nagle.

Here is what he to say about his costume experience here at The Rep:

How long you have worked at The Rep: Since July

Education/training: A Master of Fine Arts in Design for Theatre at the Yale School of Drama and a Bachelor of Arts in Social work from the University of New Hampshire

How’d you get into the theatre biz: During my undergrad, I took a costume design class to fulfill my Fine Arts General Ed as I didn’t want to take figure drawing.  I was more interested in reading than doodling, and at that time I wanted to be a doctor, but this class seemed like less time commitment. After that class, I was hired to work in the costume shop as a stitcher and then they asked me to design a couple of the main stage shows.  I kind of just fell into it. I worked some summer stock gigs and at local theatres with the intention that it was just for fun, and then one of the theatre companies hired me to do the design for a show that was going to San Francisco. While in San Francisco, a theatre company, American Conservatory Theatre, there was putting on the first leg of the Sweeney Todd national tour and I perused their website and saw that they were hiring an in-house Assistant Costume Designer and I decided to apply. After returning home, I got a local job as a Psychiatric Case Manager (my undergrad is in Social Work), worked there for about a month before I got the call from ACT that they wanted to hire me.That’s how I got into professional theatre full-time.

Why your job rocks: I get to help create completely different worlds and talk with people about the psychological happenings of their character.  For me, it’s not really about the dress, it’s about the person in it that makes me wake up in the morning and be happy to come to work daily.  Why do people do what they do has always been interesting for me, and theatre lets me be around them.

Best work day ever: My family came to visit me in New York City when I was working on a show, and as we walked through Times Square to the Broadway theatre that I was working at currently, it kind of donned on me that this isn’t everyone’s normal everyday life.  Most of my family had never seen a theater that I worked at or as big of one, so it was that final ‘this isn’t a hobby, this is a real career moment’ from them and for me.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: Memphis so far, its my first show.  Ask me in a couple of years.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: It isn’t easy. In costumes, we are the closest designers to the actors, and we see them in the most vulnerable. All body and self-esteem issues come out during fittings and we have to accommodate them all. Most actors can look past their own personal tastes and see what the character is, others don’t, which can be extremely hard.  If it is a modern show, everyone and their mother has an opinion of what the person should wear. You don’t just go and get one outfit for that look, you better have a department store on the side of the stage because you will be getting suggestions from everyone and the director will want to see everything on stage together before you have something you can move on with.

Favorite seat in the house: I haven’t sat in the house yet.

Best job perk: Coffee machine or health insurance– can’t decide

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff. Buy your tickets to Memphis here!