SAN ANTONIO — The Churchill High School theater department has found a gift in Evan Riley.
He is a senior who became a one-man costume department---by choice.
“I mean no one is telling me to do this,” Riley said. “I’ve kind of volunteered the entire time.”
Riley, 17, began his love affair with fine arts in middle school as an actor. The thespian continued to cultivate his love at Churchill High in the varsity theater class. He started coming to the theater department and has not stopped.
“I started looking for costumes and props for Death of a Salesman,” he said.
According to the high school student, the search evolved into a job for more than 60 cast members.
The school doesn’t have an official costume department. That is a luxury. But they do have Riley who turned passion and personal motivation into a job.
“No one in my family---my mom doesn’t really sew. She doesn’t like sewing,” he said. “So, I just kind of had to teach myself.”
He started with a pajama pant pattern for him and his sister. Then, he made curtains for his house. His dog got a sweater out of it too.
The teen brought his research, rendering and newly developed sewing skills to his theater department. He set up shop in a dressing room.
“The first show was Titus Andronicus. And, so I made most of the women’s costumes and then some of the men’s,” he said. “It was mostly just watching a bunch of videos on YouTube about sewing.”
Riley studied the techniques of the pros like the Tony award-winning William Ivey Long who garmented the cast of The Producers and Hairspray. He focused in on his process of creation and management.
“Design by osmosis,” he said.
The Churchill High student’s renderings serve as a road map to the show’s director. He has even designed a costume for himself as an actor. But he feels his true calling is in the costume department.
“It’s astounding! None of us on campus can believe what he’s been able to do,” Susan Mann said.
Mann is Riley’s English teacher. But his talent has not missed her eye.
“We’ve supported him and cheered him on, but he owes it all only to his own merit.”
Riley said creating the costumes can be labor intensive especially in a department where the budget forces him to frugal and resourceful. He uses coupons to buy fabric and even repurposes material around the theater department. In fact, he has created dresses from old curtains.
He has created a system, show books and more to pass the baton on to the next costumer. Even when the department must rent costumes he’s in on that too.
In fact, he’s already looking for affordable packages for their spring musical ‘Beauty and the Beast.’
“He’s the perfect blend of humility but at the same time a grand vision,” Mann said. “But it’s personal. It’s for himself. He’s not doing it to win an award or check things off a syllabus or a resume. He’s got an intrinsic motivation.”
Riley wants to improve on his craft. Some local costumers have provided mentoring for him. The rest is his desire, vision, leadership, self-motivation, reading books, YouTube and Pinterest.
“I don’t really think that you can really reach perfection,” he said. “And if you’re always improving yourself that will help you grow as an artist.”
Outside of theater, Riley is in the Ecology Club, Senior class officers and National Honor Society.
Know a kid with a story of outstanding community contribution or making a unique commitment to life? Send Marvin an email Greatkids@kens5.com. #KENS5GreatKids