November 16, 2016

Spotlight on Alumni: Andrew Cleveland

Andrew Cleveland
Andrew Cleveland, Photo: Phil Crozier

Andrew Cleveland (BFA Spec. Hons. 2013) is a Toronto-based sewer, dresser, and costume designer. Born and raised in Orangeville, Ontario, Andrew has a background in Costume Design including a bachelor’s degree in Production and Design from the Department of Theatre at York University. For the last 3 years Andrew has built costumes for theatre, opera, and ballet, locally, nationally, and internationally. Working primarily as a freelance costumer, his work can be seen on Broadway, in Toronto, London’s West End, Paris, Sydney, Shanghai, and on tour across North America.

What attracted you to York in the first place?

York was always my first choice. I was so impressed with what they had to offer. When I was in grade 12 I went to all the University fairs I could and York was always there offering the best advice.

What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?

Definitely learning how to sew! I came into school not knowing anything about sewing and thanks to all the wardrobe crews and costuming classes I had I was really able to develop my skills as a costumer and to be able to get work from that—even before I graduated—was an extra bonus!

What was the most challenging aspect or experience of training/studying at York?

I found having crew in the carp shop really difficult. I had a lot of trouble learning out how to use all the different
tools and everything but, like I said it, was the just as demanding with wardrobe crew and I was able to learn a lot and get a lot from the experience.

Titus Andronicus at Canadian Stage, Photo: David Hou

What is your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?

All of my really close friends from first year were all in theatre studies and I was the only one in our group who was in production. So we never had any classes together really. So my favourite memory is getting together with them in the CFT (Centre for Film and Theatre) right before my design class would start and just getting to hang out and talk about our week and study together.

What was your favourite place at York, and why?

I loved being in set and costume design because we got our own studio that only our class of 16 had access to. It was awesome. We were in there all the time. As a commuter in my final year it was really helpful for me and was a home away from home for me.

What was one thing you enjoyed about York that was outside of the Theatre?

I loved the social science courses I got to take. I love geography and I got to take so many geography classes while I was
in school and I loved everything about them. They were so interesting.

What are you doing for the first summer out of the program?

I graduated from the production and design program in 2013. Before I even graduated I was lucky enough to be one of the
students to intern and work in wardrobe with Canadian Stage on Shakespeare in High Park. While at Canadian Stage I made so many connections. The dresser who was dressing the shows at High Park happened to be the Head of Wardrobe for Opéra Atelier. So I was invited to join their company as a wardrobe assistant. Since joining Opéra Atelier I have built costumes for five of their productions including two that went on to tour Paris at the Royal Opera House in Versailles. While working on my first show with them I met the Head of Wardrobe for Ross Petty Productions where I got to work on their production of The Little Mermaid. One of the cutters who was also a graduate from York was working on the show as well and she asked me to work with her on one of the shows she was designing. By then I had also joined IATSE 822 as a permit and got to do my job shadow with them at a work call for Disney’s Aladdin.

Disney's The Lion King
Disney’s The Lion King in Shanghai, Photo: China News Service

The following years I continued to work with Canadian Stage and Opéra Atelier as well as the Pan Am Games and started to get more dressing calls with 822. Since then I have worked on puppets for Disney’s The Lion King (Shanghai, Disney Grand Theatre), as well as soft props for Disney’s Aladdin (London/Sydney/US National Tour, Prince Edward Theatre/Capitol Theatre). As a dresser, I have worked on the Canadian production of Kinky Boots (Toronto, Royal Alexandra Theatre), the National Tours of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Toronto, Ed Mirvish Theatre), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Musical (Toronto, Massey Hall), as well as Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins (Hamilton, Irving Zucker Auditorium), and the Canadian premieres of Lucio Silla and Alcina (Toronto, Elgin Theatre).

Opéra Atelier’s Alcina, Photo: Bruce Zinger

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the dept.?

Relax, be kind to others, and be yourself.

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?

Remember who you went to school with and who taught you because you’re going to be bumping into them a lot once you graduate.

Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?

Yes I always have a few friends on my mind that I know I can work well with whenever I’m looking for sewers.

Opéra Atelier: Versailles-Persee. The artists of the Opera Atelier from their production of Persée in the Hall of Mirrors at the Royal Palace of Versailles. Photo: Bruce Zinger.
The artists of the Opéra Atelier from their production of Persée in the Hall of Mirrors at the Royal Palace of Versailles. Photo: Bruce Zinger.

If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell my younger self to not be afraid to ask questions. One thing I always regretted was not talking to students in the upper years and asking them for advice. When I was an upper year I always talked to first year students all the time because I wish that would have been me when I was in first year.

Are you still working in Theatre, or related Arts? In what ways?

Apart from all the sewing and dressing I do, I also still continue to design costumes in my spare time. I’m currently designing costumes for Carrie: The Musical at Hart House Theatre in Toronto which opens in January of 2017, as well as the musical Spring Awakening in the town of Aurora which opens this November. I also recently just finished working on the new musical Come From Away (which is going to Broadway next year) that also opens this November at the Royal Alexandra theatre.