Caitlin Duncan, Arts Administration and Theater Design and Technology

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences spotlights distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide range of disciplines.

All the behind-the-scenes and behind-the-scenes work is what makes a show dazzle on stage, as Caitlin Duncan ’22 can attest.

Double majoring in Theater Design and Technology and Arts Administration, with minors in Early Childhood Development and Business Administration, Duncan is pursuing a career in costume design. This journey began in the fall of her freshman year when she started working in the Department of Performing Arts costume shop.

This year, the Theater Design and Technology program awarded him the Senior Student Achievement Award. Duncan was also the campus recreation and wellness team leader at Elon.

What his teachers say:

“Over the past four years, Caitlin has grown into an incredible theatrical designer with an excellent eye for costume design, said Heidi Jo Schiemer, Costume Shop Manager, Cutter/Drapper and Instructor. “She is a natural leader and has been a great mentor to our first and second year students.”

You studied so many things in Elon. How did you choose your majors?

Coming to Elon, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in costume design. Once I met the professors and staff at the college’s costume shop, I knew theatrical design and technology was what I needed. The costume shop was so full of life and associate professor Jack Smith and costume shop manager Heidi Jo Schiemer were both so knowledgeable and welcoming. During my first semester at Elon, I met many performing arts students who had double majors in arts administration. The students had nothing but phenomenal things to say about Assistant Professor of Arts Administration David McGraw, the Program Coordinator, and the Arts Administration program. After my first arts administration course, I was hooked!

Who was your mentor and how did this relationship enhance your college experience or prepare you for a career in the performing arts?

Heidi Jo Schiemer, costume shop manager at Elon University, hired me to work in the costume shop my fall freshman year and it really changed the trajectory of my career. Heidi is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. His dedication to student learning enhanced my Elon experience by taking each day as an opportunity to learn a new technique, trade or skill.

Heidi constantly challenged me to learn and grow as an artist by modeling what a lifelong learner looks like. More than just a mentor, Heidi was also a great friend. She truly cares about the holistic well-being of each student and goes out of her way to make each student feel welcome and encouraged to be themselves.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I will join the Ogunquit Playhouse summer season in Ogunquit, Maine as a first-hand costume shop. Ogunquit Playhouse has a 90-year heritage of producing world-class theater from the ground up, working with creative teams in New York, Los Angeles and London, and showcasing the best and brightest talent from Broadway, the cinema and television.

What was the most valuable part of your Elon experience?

As a freshman, I built Johanna’s dress as part of a costume building project for Elon University’s production of “Sweeney Todd”. This project was a little daunting at first, but completing a project of this size in the fall of my first semester really set the trajectory of my success at Elon. When I saw the finished costume on stage, I was so proud of the many hours and hard work I had put into it.

As a senior, I was a costume designer for Elon University’s production of “Sense and Sensibility”. This design opportunity was something I had been working on throughout my four years at Elon. Having the opportunity to serve as a costume designer allowed me to practice real-world skills that are directly transferable to my future career. I was able to learn time management, how to work well with other designers, gained important organizational skills, and deepened my creative design process.

I was team leader of collective leisure and well-being exercises on campus for two years. This job opportunity allowed me to develop my leadership skills by managing a team of 15 peer group exercise instructors. As a team leader, I was able to hone my encouragement, communication and trust skills.

What advice would you give to future students of Elon?

My advice to a freshman would be to find passion projects and give 100%. Find the place on campus where you feel inspired to do more and give it your all. Allow yourself to be passionate about the work you do.

Corina C. Butler