Producing Quality Theatre for 20 Years: Meet Costume Crafts Supervisor Rosa M. Lazaro
By Liz Armstrong
There’s a lot that goes into producing high quality plays––including everything from props, sound, set design, costumes, and more. Rosa Lazaro has been a part of this process for over twenty years now at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and it’s people like her that have kept the organization producing quality productions since it was founded in 1961.
For Lazaro, it all started when she was a high school student in Delta, Utah. The Festival’s late Founder Fred C. Adams visited Delta, his hometown.
“He got me interested and excited [in theatre],” Lazaro said.
But Adams inspired the young student in more ways than one, influencing not just her interest in theatre, but also her educational journey.
“I was a first generation college student. My father was an immigrant from Mexico, and my prospects of going to college were very slim,” Lazaro said.
One of seven children, Lazaro was the first to successfully attend college.
“A lot of that was due to Fred, knowing that these amazing people came out of Delta,” Lazaro reflected. “I’m not sure I would’ve ever left [my hometown] had Fred not come through when he did.”
Lazaro’s Start at the Festival
Lazaro enrolled at Utah State University and first came to the Festival in 1996 as a scenery mover. At the time, she was primarily interested in carpentry, properties, and technical directing and spent about three years working in scenery and at the prop shop with Properties Director Ben Hohman.
Adams, along with other early Festival framers Doug Cook and and Cam Harvey, showed Lazaro that every member of the company counts.
Lazaro reflected on her first season at the Festival, when she was working on scenery for The Three Musketeers. Adams introduced himself to her, and from then on, remembered her.
“Everyone was so important to him, even the people who pushed the scenery,” Lazaro said.
“Later I would add many [other Festival] mentors like Lew Haslam, Phil Haslam, R. Scott Phillips, and, of course, Jeffrey Lieder,” Lazaro said. “All helped me see my own potential. I’m sure there were many others, but honestly the support from my Festival family has never rested.”
Furthering Her Education
In 1999, after finishing her undergraduate degree at Utah State University, Lazaro heard that Southern Utah University needed a part time assistant technical director. Since Lazaro had worked full time for several summers at the Festival, she was qualified for the job.
“From there I was encouraged to go to graduate school to become a technical director,” Lazaro said. “The Festival [instilled] in me that I could go to grad school. I discovered I could achieve more than I ever thought I could.”
Lazaro is now a professor of theater at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. From a young girl not sure she could finish her undergraduate degree to a professor teaching everything from costume design and production to stage management, this was a massive accomplishment.
“I get choked up thinking about what [those at the Festival] did for me,” Lazaro said.
Now, as a professor, Lazaro strives to plant the same passion in her students that those at the Festival instilled in her.
“In my interview at Texas A&M, I said I wanted to keep coming back to the Festival, and they told me they wanted me to do that, and to take students that I thought were good enough back with me,” Lazaro said.
Lazaro has done just that, bringing young students and technicians to the Festival, and influencing them the way she once was influenced.
“It’s amazing that [at the Festival], we touch each other’s lives and it has a domino effect,” Lazaro said. “We continue to pay it forward.”
The Transition from Props to Costuming
Lazaro began graduate school to become a technical director. From there, she discovered she loved costuming, and so she changed her graduate focus from technical directing to costume design.
“Jeff Lieder was kind enough to give me a chance and brought me into costume crafts, which is kind of when properties and costumes has a baby,” Lazaro said. “Twenty years later, I am the Costume Crafts Supervisor.
In this department, Lazaro and her team create things like shoes, armor, millinery, and accessories. She has been supervising since 2010.
Lazaro’s favorite show she has worked on to date was Richard III in 2003, when Henry Woronicz played Richard, designed by Bill Black.
“I built this beautiful piece of plate armor that I worked tirelessly on,” Lazaro said. “I remember Henry saying it was brilliant and hearing the applause when Henry walked out in it.”
For Lazaro, this was perhaps the most significant point in her career.
“I couldn’t imagine going back to any other part of theatre after that,” Lazaro said. “It was so amazing to see the appreciation, and they had planted in me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Why She Keeps Coming Back
“Jeff tells everyone that the Festival is a very addictive place, and it’s true,” Lazaro said. “Not just because the people are wonderful to work with, but because of what it teaches you.”
“We work hard to create beautiful costumes to help tell impactful stories that can change people’s lives,” Lazaro said. “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
Lazaro reflects on where the Festival started, when it was only the Adams Memorial Theatre across the street to the three theatres, administration center, production shops, and rehearsal hall it boasts now.
“I’m a part of that. Being able to look back where we started and knowing the passion that is put into each show . . . the standards at the Festival are something to be proud of,” Lazaro said.
For Lazaro, it comes down to one simple question: Why do it at all if you’re not going to do it to such a brilliant standard?
“We know what it takes to do great, great theatre,” Lazaro said. “That is what’s going to keep me coming back year after year.”
For more information or to purchase tickets for the 2023 season, visit bard.org or call 800-PLAYTIX.