Quick Chat: Kathie Brookfield

Posted August 1, 2022 By Erin Milleville


We're in for a treat today on Quick Chats! It's time to chat with Kathie Brookfield, our Core Company Draper-Extraordinaire. Get ready to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to build the dazzling costumes that make the APT stages shine.

Kathie has over 50 years of costume experience. In addition to her time working on and designing costumes, Kathie also has worked in education, including her 24 years serving as the Theatre Costume Specialist at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music where she instructed students in flat patterning, draping, tailoring, and millinery. While running the shop, Kathie also oversaw six main stage productions and six workshop productions per year ranging from opera to musical theatre and drama, as well as three Hot Summer Nights Musical Theatre summer seasons and five Showboat Majestic productions. Kathie's first season at APT was in 1981.

American Players Theatre: Hi, Kathie! How's this summer going so far?
Kathie Brookfield:
The first half was rough. All the shows in the shop were big and there wasn’t enough space or personnel to accomplish all the tasks in a timely manner. This half has been going smoother for me. Love's Labour's Lost is a large show, but I don’t have as many builds or build-erations!

American Players Theatre: That's good to hear! Can you share a little about your career journey? What inspired you to work in costumes?
Kathie Brookfield:
I taught myself how to sew and alter patterns for myself since it was hard to find cool clothing in my size, which at the time - the 1960’s - was marketed as "Petite Chubby." I designed and made costumes for my high school in 1968 and 1969. My social studies class went to see Gone With the Wind when it was re-released in 1968, and my English class went to see Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Both movies were influential to me for their attention to historical fashion details. The shapes and fabrics used were stunning.

I actually wanted to be a music major my freshman year of college, but I could not pass Classic Piano. I cannot translate multiple lines of music to my fingers nor does my hand span an octave on the piano. I then transferred to a theater degree with an emphasis on acting and directing. I was a work-study student in the costume shop at UW-Madison for 4 years and became very interested in the process of designing and making costumes. My first job after graduating in 1975 was Resident Costume Designer for Wilson Street East Dinner Playhouse. I went back to school at UW-Milwaukee and was part of the PTTP program. I finished my BFA in Costume Technology in 1979. While in Milwaukee, I worked two seasons as a stitcher at Melody Top Musical Theatre and did over-hire work as a stitcher at The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. The first production was a remount for PBS Theatre in America of Trial of the Moke designed by Ellen Kozak. The second was Romeo and Juliet designed by Susan Tsu. I also volunteered to do millinery work on The Recruiting Officer, also designed by Susan Tsu. My husband and I moved to Austin, Texas, for graduate school. I did 3 years of graduate work in Costume Design, including designing productions of Lysistrata, a ballet, Divertissment, choreographed by Igor Youskevitch, Death of a Salesman directed by Kathleen Conlin, and Born on a Sunday (designed both Set and Costumes) directed by MFA candidate Howard Schaefer and written by Ph.D. Playwright TJ Walsh.

American Players Theatre: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned when working with costumes and designs? How about when working in teams?
Kathie Brookfield:
The most important lesson I have learned when working with costumes and designs is that the people I work with are very important. I have to meet the needs of the Director, Designer and Actor in telling a story. The needs are visual, physical, emotional, and intellectual. The costume tells the story of character, class, gender, historical period, time of day, and place. The costumes I drape/pattern have to fit appropriately for the actor/character, allowing for movement of the actor.

American Players Theatre: Obviously, you work with a lot of costumes every day, let alone over the past several years, but do you have a favorite piece you’ve worked on here at APT? What makes it special?
Kathie Brookfield:
It is hard to choose my favorite production, but I still have a fond place in my heart for the collaboration of designer Ted Boerner, actor Randall Duk Kim, first hand Michael Hansen and myself as draper on the 1984 production of Merry Wives of Windsor. My photos of the process of creating the padding for Falstaff played by Randall Duk Kim are featured in The Book of Lore. Every production is my favorite while I work on it.

American Players Theatre: When not working here, what do you like to do in your free time?
Kathie Brookfield:
I like to read, sew, and do puzzles while watching movies.

American Players Theatre: Wild Card Question: If you had to wear only clothing from one historical time period for the rest of your life, what era would you wear?
Kathie Brookfield:
I have come to enjoy comfortable clothing, so right now is the time period!

American Players Theatre: Anything else you'd like to add?
Kathie Brookfield:
My business card says: ANY BODY, ANY TIME. The motto on my table says: DONE IS BEAUTIFUL, FINISHED FITS. Also, please see my APT bio.