Gweneth West

Gweneth West

Professor Emerita, Costume Design

Gweneth has designed costumes for over 250 productions and directed or acted in over 80 with 39 summers in repertory & stock theatres. She served as Resident Costume Designer and Costume Director for Heritage Repertory Theatre 1986-2004 designing more than 90 productions. Her designs for Ragtime, HRT 2004 won exhibition in Toronto at the international, juried World Stage Design Exhibition, 2005. Her work has also been seen in productions across the country including the world premiere of a new opera, Nosferatu by Alva Henderson and Dana Gioia, former head of the NEA. She designed three joyous summers for Texas Shakespeare Festival for Artistic Director Raymond Caldwell and Managing Director John Dodd ~ The Royal Hunt of the Sun, 2008, directed by Stephen Terrell; Othello, 2006, and School for Husbands, 2005, directed by Roseanne Sheridan. Most recently her costumes were onstage at the Caplin Theatre, Department of Drama Main Season, Fall 2014.

Costume designer and professor for over 40 years, Gweneth has been a member of the UVA faculty since 1990. She serves as Head of Costume Design & Technology mentoring Master of Fine Arts students in their creative projects in lieu of dissertation as they complete this MFA which is a terminal degree parallel to the PhD in other  disciplines. Here she teaches graduate and undergraduate costume design, history of dress, research, character, portfolio, and graphics as well as collaboration & creative process. She designs for the department and mentors both graduate and undergraduate designers in productions for the main season. Gweneth’s work as Curator of The Collection of Historic Dress, which is housed in the Department’s Costume Program, continues to provide a rare opportunity for students of costume design & technology, history of dress, acting, and various disciplines across the university. Her J-Term course, “The Fine Art of Dress: Conformity and Individuality” brings undergraduate students from disciplines across the university together to explore the power of dress as personal expression which they apply to original research into garments of this collection.

Gweneth holds the Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Design: Costume from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied costume design with Paul Reinhardt, directing with Francis Hodge, and lighting design with David Nancarrow ~ all giants in the development and innovation of professional training of artist-scholars across the country. She began her professional teaching and designing career at Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre, Detroit, before joining the faculty at the University of Florida as Head of Costume Design and Production teaching both costume design and directing.  Dedicated to the education and training of young theatre artists, her design students attend graduate programs, teach in universities, and work in theatres from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles.

A long-time supporter of KCACTF [Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival] since 1977, Gweneth completes her term as National Chair of Design Technology & Management 2011-2015 having previously served as served as the National Design & Technology Vice-chair 2008-2011 and Regional Design Chair and Vice Chair for Region IV 2004-2006. She served as a member of the KCACTF National Selection Team, 2007, traveling to eight festivals to select productions for the April, 2007 Kennedy Center Celebration. From 2004-2006 she served as Region IV Design & Technology Chair. Her work prior to serving as D&T Chair included serving on the regional selection committee under several outstanding regional chairs.

Active with USITT [United States Institute of Theatre Technology], Gweneth most recently presented The Collection of Historic Dress as model for strategies in creating strong study collections in addition to serving as host & facilitator to William Ivy Long and Willa Kim in the USITT Broadway Professional Development Workshop, spring 2010. She has also served as Vice-Chair of Costume Design for the Costume Commission for the six years presenting a selected design panel each year with outstanding presentations by Susan Tsu, James Glavan, Judy Adamson, Laura Crow, Marianne Custer, Linda Roethke, and Bill Brewer to name but a few. 

At the University of Virginia, she applies her leadership skills in creative collaboration to serving as Head of Costume Design & Technology and Curator for The Collection of Historic Dress for the Department of Drama, COLA Advising Fellow teaching “Awakening Creative Potential” to first semester First Years for the College of Arts and Sciences, 2006-present, serving as their advisor for two years or until they declare their major, and Chair of the UVA Faculty Senate, 2010-2011 followed by serving as Immediate Past Chair, 2011-2012.  

Gweneth’s leadership on the Faculty Senate began in spring 2006 as representative of the Department of Drama. That same term she was elected Member At Large of the Executive Council, then in 2010 to the three-year commitment as Chair-Elect, Chair, and Immediate Past Chair. This emergence coincided with Theresa Sullivan’s Presidency. Now as Former Chair, Gweneth continues to serve as special consultant to the current chair triumvirate in collaboration with the Board of Visitors. She continues to serve on the Executive Council as team leader for the Collaboration, Communications, and Engagement Committee bringing constituencies from across grounds together for the public good. By appointment of the President and Provost, Gweneth also serves as UVA Grand Marshal for all ceremonies, Fall Intermediate Honors and Spring Final Exercises, in particular.

Fall 2013 found Gweneth deeply entrenched in her greatest passion, “Creativity and Innovation: The Possibility of Transformational Change” sponsored by the 2013-2014 Arts & Sciences Sesquicentennial Associateship program of the College of Arts and Sciences.  This exploration has long been underway through years of teaching undergraduate courses, “Image to Form” and “Awakening Creative Potential”, all graduate courses in costume design, years of working with directors, designers, and actors in theatre production, and most recently as a university leader with the Faculty Senate in collaboration with students, staff, faculty, alumni, the administration,  President Sullivan and the Board of Visitors.  All have served as laboratory for creative problem solving applied to the art of higher education ~ a remarkable opportunity to put research into action.                                                                                     

Gweneth’s greatest passion ~ standing for her students, friends and colleagues to discover their highest possibilities through risk-failure-recovery-success models, the foundation of creative exploration and innovation.