A real character: UK costume designer has passion and fashion for job


Nelson Fields designed ostumes for Monkey King and is beginning to design costumes for Romeo and Juliet on 10/11/11. Photo by Quianna Lige

By Kayla Pickrell

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­­Most people think a costume designer is someone who just designs costumes for a play and is finished. What most do not see are the hours of work and dedication it takes to bring the ideas in a script to the final wardrobe product seen on stage.

Nelson Fields, the costume designer for UK’s theatre department, knows how to create and set up one of the most important parts of a production: the thespians’ attire.

Not only is he the costume designer, but he takes on many roles for the theatre department.

He is a faculty member, teacher and adviser to his students.

Besides costume design, Fields said his favorite part of his job is being able to work with the students because it “keeps you younger.”

Lucy Hargett, a senior theatre major and a student of Fields said, “I learned more from him than I have any other professor in this department.”

Fields admits to certain disdains of being a faculty member, such as grading papers, but he loves his job.

“I know some people who complain about how much they hate their work, but I love it,” Fields said. “I get to do what I want to do.”

Fields attended UK in the 1970’s, and since then he has designed costumes for more than 250 productions, including about 60 UK productions. Once in a while, Fields likes to take positions outside of the school for multiple reasons.

“It is getting harder and harder to get design jobs these days,” Fields said.

The most important reason to keep connections outside of UK is to help the students find jobs when they are needed, he said.

“He is there for the students, always,” Hargett said.

After finishing costumes for the fall production, “Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven,” Fields is on to his next venture: “Romeo and Juliet.” Each play requires a completely different approach, Fields said. For Romeo and Juliet, he has read the script seven times over and had to “buy all of the latest fashion magazines” to see what is considered high-class fashion today.

“I am constantly being challenged,” Fields said. “My job is to provide information for the audience about who these (characters) are.”

Despite being challenged with every production, Fields seems to have a grasp on what he does. Fields has traveled to Las Vegas, Reno, Houston, New York and many other places to design for larger theatre companies. He has even designed pieces that are still being used in current productions .

When asked what his favorite production is, Fields could not pick one, but mentioned musicals in general.

In 1984, Fields was a costume designer for an outdoor theatre in Texas where the production of “Hello Dolly” ran. He created more than 500 costumes for the 80 actors, and worked with a well-known jazz singer who played the main role.

During two of the performances, the audience applauded his work.

“It is not something that is normally seen,” Fields said. “When someone told me it was my costumes that were being applauded, I could not believe it.”

“I am focusing on costume design because of his influence. He has given me a better understanding of the field.” said Hargett.

He has been asked by Fields to be the assistant costume designer for the upcoming “Romeo and Juliet” play.

“Nelson Fields has instilled in me a passion for costume design,” Hargett said.