For the past 15 years, Travis Halsey has led Halsey Onstage, designing and building costumes for ballet, opera, theater, circus arts, film, television, and other forms of live performance.
Winner of the Kitty Leech Young Master Award at the 2018 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards, Halsey tells Live Design that his career all started "with an emery wheel, the farm tool you sit upon and pedal to rotate a large stone to sharpen a knife or saw. My friend and mentor Linda Haar was directing Oklahoma at the Lewis and Clark Theatre company in Yankton South Dakota," he recalls. "It was the summer before my freshman year in high school, and at that time, I did not have an interest in theatre, and costumes were not on my radar. But Linda needed an emery wheel for a bit in the surrey song, and I, being a farm kid, might have access to one. The afternoon I delivered the emery wheel to the theatre, a mens' chorus boy had twisted an ankle. They were down a dancer. I could already sing, and walk in cowboy boots...so I was in the show. During that production, I started assisting Pam Kallis, costume guru. I was totally fascinated with the skill and detail she used to transform a flat piece of goods into a three-dimensional thing. I was hooked, and it was in that production I learned how helpful a good costume is to any character, moment, the whole production.
From there, I studied theatre at both Creighton University, and UNO, both in Omaha, Nebraska, receiving a BFA in Theatre Arts, with a costume emphasis from UNO. But the deepest roots of my costume education were grounded in what I learned at both the Omaha Community Playhouse and Omaha Theatre Ballet. Also during the college years, and several years after, I worked at the Black Hills Playhouse, in Custer South Dakota, acting as often as designer, shop manager, and many other costume shop roles. From Omaha, I took a position as a lead pattern-maker at Houston Ballet. There, I worked for three years patterning, and overseeing the production of many costumes. It was my first large shop, and I learned and absorbed more and more. I also co-designed a few main stage ballets while at Houston, and designed some for the student company. Following that, I took an assistant position in the shop at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, also cutting, patterning, crafting, and designing several main stage productions. For the past five years, I have had my own studio in Chicago, where we build both productions I have designed, and also build for other theatres and ballet companies across the USA, and some international items. We work in ballet, theatre, opera, circus arts, ice skating, film, and TV. It's different every day."
Click through the slideshow to see a portfolio of Halsey's work.