Kitty Macey has designed more than 100 productions at Oswego as well as other venues
By Steve Yablonski
After nearly a half century of service, Kitty Macey will be stepping down at the end of the spring 2022 semester.
Macey is professor of costume and makeup design at SUNY Oswego.
She has designed more than 100 productions at Oswego as well as for Syracuse Opera, Oswego Opera Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera Workshop, Bronx Opera and in Munich. Her designs for live performance in Renaissance faires have appeared in Upstate New York and Maryland.
“I’ve been at the college for 45 years, since the fall of 1977.
It’s been a while,” she said. “[President] Deborah Stanley and I both came at the same time. I was joking with her during her retirement party. I said, ‘we came in the same time, but you get to leave a whole semester earlier.’ She’s had a lot to deal with this whole COVID stuff.”
Production-wise, Macey was doing around five full productions a year when she first started.
“It was about the first 20-some years, I was doing a lot of productions; at least five a year and I did some stuff on the side, too. It bumped itself down to four a year right about 2000 or so. Then, because of COVID-19, we’re at three,” she said. “Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“I did Syracuse Opera for a while, in the early years. I did Glimmerglass Opera for a summer. I did some stuff in Germany when I went on sabbatical, again, operetta. I did some stuff there for a friend who was teaching in Munich,” she added. “It’s been an interesting time for me.”
She said she has many memories.
“There are so many of them. I’ve had so many good students who’ve gone on to have wonderful careers,” she said.
One, Ann Emo, is chairwoman of the Buffalo State College theater department. She is a costume designer.
“She worked in New York City for some time before moving further in state, shall we say,” Macey said. “And then there is Nanci Vaeth who’s been out working in Seattle with Seattle Opera. Another one has been doing a lot of film work, was also a wardrobe supervisor on Broadway. He just got done working on a project with Martin Scorsese. He is now back in New York City to do some live production work on costumes. He’s all over the place.”
“There’s Liz Martinelli, she graduated from here wanting to do hair and makeup. She went to New York City, got her cosmetology license. She got a position working on Phantom of the Opera;doing hair, because you can’t do both hair and makeup in the union. She wound up being on “Law and Order SVU” for quite some time. Her husband is a director and she’s been doing a lot of his films,” she continued.
There have been “quite a few; that’s just a sample of them,” Macey said.
“I really liked ‘Godspell,’ that was one of the last shows [former professor] John Mincher did. The design was so good,” Macey recalled. “There were so many others, it’s hard to say. I really liked ‘Blood Relations.’ It was a student show; it was really good. It’s all about Lizzy Borden and whether or not she did what she did. It’s a really good play. I had a good time doing that. I have a good time with the student directors. I really enjoyed ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ that I did with a visiting professor.
“And, all the stuff I did with (former professor) Mark Cole. We did ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ It was really cool; it was like a modern version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ I really enjoyed the idea of the collaboration aspect of things.”
She and Cole, with Julie Pretzat-Merchant (the dean of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts), did a Renaissance Madrigal dinner, “for more than 10 years. We kept doing that, by the seat of our pants. That was a lot of fun.”
A lot of productions are tougher to do than some of the others.
“Musicals. Musicals are not easy. They are not easy ones to do, to be honest with you,” she said. “There are just so many different variations that have to go into the musical: bigger casts, more things to do.”
Plans after retirement?
“I’m not sure. I just want to relax for a little bit and then [husband] Michael and I talked about traveling a little bit and maybe…I don’t know. I’ll figure it out,” she said. “There’s a lot to keep me occupied. I’m still working on the novel that I’ve been working on. I think I’ll still be in theater, whatever I do, in some way, shape or form. I enjoy costuming; I enjoy makeup, doing hair. It’s been a good time.”
Featured image: A scene from Blood Relations depicting the Lizzy Borden story.