CMU student, Albulena Borovci, wins costume design award


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Ribbons of brocade lined with baroque embroidery flashed across the stage of Carnegie Mellon's Philip Chosky Theater in 18th-century luxury. Designer Albulena Borovci watched from the wings as her watercolor sketches twirled to life in CMU's adaptation of the romantic comedy, "The Rivals."

Although it has been several months since the October premiere of the show, Ms. Borovci, 24, a third-year graduate student studying costume design at CMU, recently received acclaim for her work when she was awarded the Zelma Weisfeld Costume Design Award by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.

The award is given to an individual pursuing a graduate degree, who shows outstanding potential in costume design. Ms. Borovci will receive a $1,000 cash prize and free registration to the March USITT Conference, where she will be presented her award. She's among nine winners of 2013 USITT Awards for Young Designers & Technicians in the Performing Arts, which include the costume design award.

The Kosovo native, who has always loved the combination of theater and art, chose to pursue graduate studies in costume design because of its dynamic movement and direct interaction with the production.

"I'm drawn to costume design because in the theater, the set, although beautiful, is often static, whereas costumes get to move with the actor. The way that the costumes then shape the picture that the audience sees is amazing," she said.

Ms. Borovci's winning portfolio also includes designs for "Mad Forest," another CMU drama production set in Romania. She believes that her work for "The Rivals," however, was the highlight of her application.

"This portfolio, for me, represents undeniable talent," one of the judges wrote. "The designer has it all; range of aesthetic, ability to beautifully convey design ideas in a variety of styles and media appropriate to the project at hand, excellent sense of design aesthetic ... Albulena Borovci brings serious skills to the table."

Following the performance of "The Rivals," Michelle Pilecki, a reviewer for Pittsburgh City Paper, wrote, "Albulena Borovci's costumes are drop-dead gorgeous; the ladies' gowns suggest magnificent ships in full sail when the Empire was at its height."

Ms. Borovci, who usually creates modern-day costume designs, spent the bulk of her time researching in the months leading up to the creation for "The Rivals" costumes.

"Period garments are such a wonderful thing to make; you get to do all this research and see how the clothes were cut and discover different definitions of beauty during that time. Being able to analyze all of that and re-create certain designs is a great feeling," she said.

Wools, velvets, brocades, taffetas and silks filled her work studio. By combining the fabrics with a medley of lace trims, she successfully achieved the desired look.

Adviser Susan Tsu wrote in a nomination letter, "She has worked hard -- exploring all the appropriate period research, character nuance, costume detail, accurate color, wig, shoe, and fabric knowledge that she could."

Although Ms. Borovci was lauded for her time-period designs, she prefers to create contemporary, everyday costumes for film.

"I love film and theater both, but if I had to pick, I would definitely love to work with film. The reason is because it's amazing to get to see all of the details of your costume designs up close. I'm a very detail-oriented designer, and I want the viewer to be able to see all of that," she said. She will graduate with a master's of fine arts degree from CMU's School of Drama in May. She received a bachelor's degree in scenography in Kosovo from the University of Pristina's Academy of Arts in 2010 and also studied costume design as an exchange student at the University of Montana, Missoula, for one year in 2008.

Although she says it is hard being far away from home, she finds passion in her work and feels supported by her program at CMU.

"Back home, everything is much easier because you have all of your friends and family to support you but here you only have yourself. It wasn't easy. The biggest support for me was definitely Carnegie Mellon and my teachers there."

"Lena has put herself through school here in the USA and works at the Hunt Library and takes on small jobs in order to pay for her living expenses," said Ms. Tsu.

Upon graduation, Ms. Borovci hopes to continue designing realistic clothing for a film company in New York or Los Angeles.

theater

Noel Um: num@post-gazette.com.


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