Emma Tait of Marshfield, Vt., graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 2017 with a degree in geography and minors in computer science and geospatial technologies. She combined these diverse interests through a college honors thesis she describes as “exploring the critiques of the visual and other spatial content—or ‘worlds’—encountered in online games, in order to understand what kinds of ideas about nature are created, promoted and consumed in mass-appeal virtual spaces and how these ideas might be reflected back into the actual world.”
Tait also took home the Miriam Zadek Award for Excellence in Costume Design and Construction, awarded each year by the theatre department.
While the realms of theater and geography wouldn’t seem to have much in common, Tait doesn’t see it that way.
“Geographers study human relationships to space and place,” she explains. “The stage is an environment that exists in a physical place and also in the imagination. When I design costumes, I want to enhance the audience's understanding of the physical environment—along with the political and social aspects of the world that the play portrays.”
When she arrived at UVM, Tait applied as a work-study student to the costume shop at the Royall Tyler Theater and later took theatre professor Martin Thaler’s Fundamentals of Costuming class.
“My mom taught me how to sew—she said ‘you have to learn how to hem your own pants,’” Tait says. “In high school I did an independent study and worked for a tailor where I learned more advanced sewing skills.”
She used them to great effect at UVM. During her four years at the university she had a hand in costuming for every theatre department production.
“Her quiet and dedicated personality has consistently helped to make anyone on our stage look their absolute best,” Thaler remarked in presenting Tait with the award at a department banquet earlier this month.
He praised Tait as an inspired designer, consistently making solid choices about character that were well researched and punctuated with imagination and a sense of whimsy.
“I looked forward to her weekly design decisions in Theater 140, where her sense of exacting detail became crystal clear as she unveiled her designs for the Seven Deadly Sins set in a turn-of-the-century steampunk world,” Thaler remarked.
Tait takes her intellectual and artistic talents to the University of Cambridge where she will build on her thesis research to pursue a master’s degree in geographical research.
The Miriam Zadek Award for Excellence in Costume Design and Construction is named for Miriam Zadek, who exemplifies a student with a lifelong thirst for learning, risk-taking, and the ability to continue learning regardless of age or circumstance.