Spotlight: Brenna Maginness ’20
Brenna Maginness '20, theatre design and technology alumna and BHC Scholar, served as a costume designer for UCF theatre productions during her time at UCF, and wrote an Honors Undergraduate Thesis on lesbian representation in theatre. She will be attending the University of the Arts in London to earn a master's degree in fashion culture and histories, with the goal of becoming a museum curator.
Tell us about yourself. Why did you choose to study theatre – is there a story there?
I just graduated from UCF with a BFA in theatre design and technology and a minor in art history! Unlike many of my classmates, I had zero theatre experience in high school! I did, however, count down the days to Halloween every year and loved thinking of and executing costumes. My mom's office also had an annual costume contest, so my childhood is filled with memories of her frankensteining together a half Sonny/half Cher pantsuit and wig, or glueing facial hair on to complete her Shaggy costume for her Scooby-Doo group before dropping me off at school. My school barely had a drama club, so I hadn't even considered that costume design was something I could do, outside of October 31st, until my junior year. Discovering that colleges had costume programs was a eureka moment! It instantly felt like the final piece of the puzzle and I never again stopped to consider a different major.
What are some of the accomplishments at UCF that you are most proud of?
I'm so proud of the productions I costume designed with Theatre UCF, especially my senior year when I designed The Rover, a period show with a cast of 29. As a freshman, I never would have imagined I could handle that, but Theatre UCF's program and professors prepared me in every way possible. Though I may be moving away from traditional theatre, I'll never forget the feeling of getting through the final dress for a show and hearing the "happy openings" fill the halls the next day as everyone celebrated the beginning of the show's run.
Outside of designing, I loved my experience with Honors in the Major. Theatre UCF does a wonderful job of preparing its design and technology students for the real world, but I was seriously experiencing some research paper withdrawal! After partaking in an independent study that critically examined LGBT-centric plays, I decided to embark on an undergraduate thesis about lesbian representation in theatre. I loved everything about the research and academic writing and my experience with that thesis was a major part of my decision to attend a graduate program. I also won the BHC Honors in the Major scholarship with my thesis proposal, which allowed me to visit the WOW Theater that my thesis centered around in person, and even to speak with current members of the historic organization. The opportunity to actually stand in the walk-up that inspired so many artists was unforgettable.
What advice do you have for other BHC Scholars who may want to pursue a similar path?
While there's definitely a lot of STEM-based courses in the Burnett Honors College, I found that to be a plus in many ways; it meant that every interdisciplinary seminar I attended was truly interdisciplinary by my theatre major standards. I would highly suggest using your general education classes to fulfill your honors course requirements and to start that early because it's challenging to find honors courses within a theatre major/art history minor course load. An undergraduate thesis is also a great option from an art student standpoint because I found it [gave me] a whole new perspective to my studies!
What will you be doing after graduation? How did BHC help you on your academic journey and in achieving these goals?
I will be attending the London College of Fashion at the University of the Arts London to get an M.A. in fashion cultures and histories starting this fall! Though I wrestled for a while between offers in New York City and the intimidating idea of moving my life to a whole new country, I eventually chose UAL because, in addition to hands-on research of collections at museums like the Victoria and Albert Museum, the program also focuses on the theory behind the clothing choices we make historically and today. Actually applying the knowledge that I gain from costume history to the world of fashion that we live in today is a really valuable aspect of fashion history to me - not to mention the opportunity to experience another country and the diverse costumes that come with such a long history!
BHC's Honors in the Major program was incredibly inspirational to me as a student. Besides inspiring my love of academia, I was able to use excerpts from my undergraduate thesis as examples of my writing for almost all of my graduate applications. The unique courses that the interdisciplinary seminars had offered to me were also a major talking point during multiple interviews, by helping portray me as a well-rounded student. I don't know where I'd be without my honors experiences.
What is your long-term goal/future plans?
My long-term goal is to work within the museum system in the U.S., hopefully as a curator who researches and writes the information for new exhibits, or in museum education (or both!). As a child, my favorite part of vacations was often experiencing the museums that city had to offer. While in London, I hope to intern at a museum to get more experience behind the scenes, so upon my return I can truly join the museum sector! I'd love to continue doing research and publishing papers, too, but I've always seen my main day-to-day job as being museum-based.
If all things go right, 10 years from now I will most likely be...
...working at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.! I love the city and the sheer number of museums, but especially their collection of First Ladies' gowns. The First Lady exhibit actually might have been my first taste of fashion history and curation.
What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you?
I met a lot of amazing people in my tight-knit design/tech major, one of which has since become my fiancee, Karoline. We started and graduated from the program together, happened to design the same senior production together, and are now looking forward to spending our post-UCF lives together!