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Beyond costume design

May 14, 2011
By Cindy Votruba ( , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - When he was at Southwest State University, theater professor Charles Autry put his all into his costume designs.

"For the Bride," which features the late Autry's pastel drawings of historical wedding dresses from the 1400s through the 1920s, along with several vintage wedding dresses, will be on display at the Marshall Area Fine Arts Center.

Dr. William Hezlep, professor emeritus of theater at SMSU, was a longtime friend and colleague of Autry's. Hezlep said like most of the theater faculty back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Autry was a theater professional.

"He was probably my best friend," Hezlep said. Autry taught at the college from 1970 to 1991.

The theater faculty would come together to put on a show, Hezlep said, from the set design to Autry's costuming.

"It was very collaborative in those days," Hezlep said.

Hezlep said Autry would sit down and sketch out costumes, then bring out swatches before he created the costume itself. Autry was very selective, Hezlep added.

"When we did a play, he did research - get the different concepts of how a production was done," Hezlep said. "His final drawings were truly works of art."

Hezlep remembered some of the designs Autry did for "Vivat! Vivat! Regina," a play about Mary, Queen of Scots, during the 1973-1974 theater season at the college; how Autry paid special attention to the costumes.

"He would spend the time on them (costume sketches)," Hezlep said.

Autry would then give some of his sketches to kids. Hezlep said his own children even received costume sketches when the college did "Peter Pan" back in the 1971-1972 season.

"He was like a member of our family," Hezlep said.

Hezlep said Autry was a "dependable, creative" individual.

"He's the special kind of guy you don't run into very often," Hezlep said. "He was just a super guy, a delightful actor."

But Autry was beyond a costume designer, Hezlep said, he was an artist. Autry also served in the Marines during the Korean conflict.

"He was quite a storyteller, well-read," Hezlep said.

Autry retired from SSU and moved to Minneapolis. In 1983 and 1984, he created the drawings that are featured in the exhibit for Bridals, LTD in Burnsville.

"He did some film work, did some design," Hezlep said.

When the bridal shop had closed a few years ago, the plates were sent to Sheila Tabaka, SMSU theater professor and costume designer.

"He was a multi-faceted individual," Hezlep said of his friend. "He loved the theater and enjoyed life. He was a very giving man."



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