Hearing Martin Thaler's advice on costume design in his "Fundamentals of Costuming" class is not what you expect. "Read the play," urges the professor of theater, referring to the copies of "Arsenic and Old Lace" each student has. "Read it again. And read it until you know it."
For 25 years, Martin Thaler has been dressing UVM up for hundreds of productions from "The Maid of Judah" to "The Toys Take Over Christmas." But in order to share the secrets of the stage with students, the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award winner's approach goes back to the basics.
Kate Godkin, a theatre major, reports that Thaler's teaching has given her the confidence to draw and paint, skills she never thought she could learn. "He's really encouraging — one step at a time."
As a teenager living in New Jersey, Thaler would take the bus trip to Manhattan for matinee and evening shows. "I was in awe of it all," he says. "I loved musicals and was just amazed at the art and craft." After an undergraduate degree from St. Michael's College, he earned his M.F.A. in design at Penn State, fully committed to becoming a professional designer or teacher. As a research institution, UVM offered the chance for both. "It was the best of both worlds," says Thaler, who moved back to the Green Mountains in 1983. "I didn't have to choose — wow."
His credits range from working with the Muppets in New York to designing Shogun costumes at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Last year, Thaler brought his students to New York City to work with an off-Broadway director. "It gave them a sense of value in their work and the whole process of collaboration," he says.