Theatre designer reaches finals of world competition
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
What started as a hobby that helped Nola Yergen break out of her shell and bond with her mother has earned her a spot in an international design competition.
World of WearableArt annually welcomes designers from more than 40 countries to showcase their work, and Yergen and her collaborator, Brian Lapham, are two of only eight Americans selected. The designs of the winners, who will be announced on Friday, Sept. 27, will go on a world tour.
Yergen, who has been teaching and designing costumes for Ethington Theatre’s productions for more than 20 years, decided to submit a design to the New Zealand-based competition after stumbling across some designs from past years on Pinterest.
“I’m like ‘What? What is this?’, so I did some research and was like, ‘This is exactly the sort of thing that I’m interested in’ because I do a lot of costume competitions and this one seems to be a level up,” she said.
Each year the competition has the same categories — Aotearoa, Avant-Garde and Open — and this year added three new categories. When the Mythology category was added, Yergen and Lapham got to work.
“The character that we’re doing is Grendel’s mother from Beowulf, but it is completely our interpretation of her,” Yergen said. “She was this warrior woman who over the millennia became this dragon, sort of evil character, and I find that very fascinating. She’s very much a warrior — the costume is made out of leather and fiberoptic fabrics.”
The costume also showcases Yergen’s ability to work lights into a costume as well as a set of mechanical wings.
“I learned how to do copper electroforming … she has these sorts of bones on her, so we created those shapes and then I put it into this chemical formula, ran electric current through it and literally plated it in copper,” she said. “It was a lot of work, but every time I do a project, I want to learn a new skill.”
She has won several AriZoni Awards for her work on GCU shows and said she could not have made this costume without the support and help from her GCU family. Over the years, Yergen has had no shortage of opportunities to take on new challenges, something she got from her mother and would design costumes for them to wear to events.
“We’d go to the Renaissance festival and we’d go to science fiction conventions like comic-cons and we’d dress up in costume,” she said. “It was great because I was really shy, but if I was in costume people would just come up and talk to me and I didn’t have to initiate anything.”
Before finding the World of WearableArt competition, Yergen often struggled to find out what she could classify as her type of costuming. Cosplay and historical reenactments didn’t quite match what Yergen was doing with her designs.
Although she sent her costume all the way to New Zealand for judging and was actually selected to be in the show, Yergen didn’t expect to be selected in her first shot at the competition.
“The whole time I’ve just been like, ‘Well, we probably won’t get in’ and then ‘Well, we probably won’t get any further’ and then ‘Oh well, we probably won’t win anything,’” She said. “But you never know, and it’s exciting as it is.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]