30 Under 30: Lauren T. Roark, Costume Designer

In celebration of LDI’s 30th anniversary—1988-2018—Live Design gives a shout out to 30 Under 30: thirty young movers and shakers who are changing paradigms, looking at things from new angles, and rapidly rising to the forefront of their field. From scenic, lighting, projection, and costume designers to technicians and programmers, as well as those who work for manufacturers, production companies, or rental shops, our 30 Under 30 are the harbingers of tomorrow.

Fueled by a lifelong love of sewing, storytelling, and history, Lauren T. Roark found herself in the world of theatre at a young age, and when she discovered she could combine her loves into one job—costume design—she never looked back. She got her start as an intern at Broadway Costumes, Inc., in Chicago and has been working ever since, becoming involved with Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. While acting as a freelance costume designer and shop manager, she teaches at Beloit College, assist local high schools on productions, and collaborate on academic research with fellow colleagues. 


Million Dollar Quartet, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 2018

Name: Lauren T. Roark

Age: 28

City, State of residence: Beloit, WI

Position/title: Costume Designer/Costume Shop Manager

Employer (if not freelance): Beloit College

Current project(s): Current: Million Dollar Quartet (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Black Pearl Sings! (Milwaukee Repertory Theater). Upcoming: Henry VI, Pt. I (Utah Shakespeare Festival), Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical (Emerald City Theatre), Clybourne Park (Beloit College).

Most notable achievements: As a freelance costume designer and teaching artist, it’s been truly exciting to be working in an industry I am passionate about and has taken me to four continents, including Brazil, Italy, and Hong Kong. In addition, I have had the distinct pleasure to develop close working relationships with many regional theatres, such as the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. I am also thrilled to be returning to my third season designing at the Tony Award-winning, Utah Shakespeare Festival and to have been working on several productions of Million Dollar Quartet, directed by Hunter Foster, with several more in the works. While pursuing my professional work as a designer, I also find time to design and teach at Beloit College, assist local high schools on productions, and collaborate on academic research with fellow colleagues.

When I started in this industry: At the age of 16

How I got into this industry: My first professional job was as an intern at Broadway Costumes, Inc., in Chicago, the largest costume rental house in the Midwest. Since that time, I’ve been working. I had always loved sewing, storytelling, and history, but it wasn’t until high school (when I got first got involved in theatre) that I realized I could combine it into one job. After that realization, it was not long before I was actively involved in my high school and local community theatres and moving down the path to where I am today.

Influences: My goal is to find inspiration in my daily life. I also make it a point to experience the work of other artists by visiting local galleries, watching new theatrical works, and more; you never know what might inspire your next project. My recent work has been heavily influenced by period design elements, viewed through a modern aesthetic. What does a mash-up of Gothic fashion and modern runway detailing and textiles look like? It’s fun to identify ways for a modern audience to connect to period fashion.

Worst advice I’ve ever heard: “Just wait… the jobs will come to you.” The jobs will never just come to you. Be an advocate for yourself and your work.

Best advice I’ve ever heard: “Eliminate fear and trust your process.” As an artist, never be afraid to challenge what you learn in the studio; take bold risks, exhibit diverse, out-of-the-box, inclusive thinking, and discover what a powerful tool theatre can be within our community and the broader global community of artists and learners. 

James and the Giant Peach, Coterie Theatre

My favorite thing about the production industry: Too many to list, but I can say my absolute favorite thing is the opportunity to meet and collaborate with amazing artists all over the country and world.

Favorite design/programming/technical trick: In a pinch, art markers will dye satin shoes and color clear rhinestones beautifully. Also, any quick change that involves magnets.

Plans for the future: My goal for the future is to balance a thriving professional costume design and academic career. Being part of a community of artists making an impact on their community and affecting change through storytelling is where I want to be.

Awards, honors: My work has been featured in the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Young Designer’s Forum Exhibition, and I was awarded the Barbizon Award for Theatrical Design Excellence.

Organizations, memberships: United Scenic Artists, Local 829 and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology

Website if applicable: www.laurentroark.com

Check out Live Design/LDI's other 30 Under 30: