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Melinda Pacha: Creator of the costumes

For 30 years, Prof. Melinda Pacha has provided the look for theatre company productions

By Cody Grant
On November 15, 2011

 

 

It's safe to say Melinda Pacha has hundreds upon hundreds of shoes. 

The Iowa-born UDM professor also has an entire cabinet devoted to eyeglasses, a wooden armoire that houses just jewelry and multiple racks of clothing.

While most people with access to items such as these would have credit card debt up to their deltoids, Pacha doesn't.

This isn't a hobby; it's simply part of her job.

In addition to acting as the chair of the theatre program, Pacha is the scenic and costume designer for UDM's Theatre Company.

The latter position is something she has held since 1981 when she came to the University of Detroit not long after completing her MFA in scenic design at the Hilberry Theatre at Wayne State University.

Since then, Pacha has continued to work with the mainstays of the UDM theatre program, such as Dr. Arthur Beer, director of the recently concluded "Anatomy of Gray"; technical director Mark Choinski; and Professor David Regal, who is also affiliated with Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester.

The four have been together for 30 years. That experience has benefitted their communication to the point where they finish each other's sentences, Pacha said.

For over three decades now, Pacha has found, bought or sewn everything needed in terms of costuming the actors in UDM theatre productions.

"I handle every single piece," said Pacha, who crafted every costume for "Anatomy of "But I do have an assistant who helps me, Yovanna

Pacha's contributions can be seen all over UDM productions. In fact, she even found the script for "Anatomy of Gray," and presented it to the theatre company's selection committee, said Greg Grobis, director of marketing and management of the UDM Theatre Company.

"She designed practically the whole show," Grobis said. She would be "impossible to

Pacha's work, which includes everything from sketching set pieces to sewing individual articles of clothing, is something most theatre companies would employ multiple people to do. 

But the wife and mother of one gets by mainly on her own. It's easier for her to keep track of everything that way, she jokes.

"Melinda Pacha wears many hats here at UDM," Grobis said. "In reality there should be two people doing this, but with limited budgets the faculty (has) to assume more than one role to produce live

The shop where Pacha gets most of her work done is tucked away in the basement of Reno Hall. 

It is a wonderful and quirky converted classroom with long wooden tables that hold electric sewing machines. Along one of the walls is a rack of men's shoes at least four feet high that runs the gamut of the wall's depth. A chartreuse table and chairs are off-set as scenery models Pacha created years ago loom over the room like gargoyles from atop cabinets. 

There is a whimsical feeling to perusing the costumes, something akin to visiting a library of clothing. This is no doubt a representation of Pacha's own personality.

As UDM's costume and scenic designer and fan of all things Modigliani, Pacha possesses a coolness unmatched by others. It is represented in how one can walk into her colorful and well-decorated office and hear Queen's "Under Pressure" followed by a Kimya Dawson recording.

"(She) is warm, funny and has a great passion for the arts," said Grobis, who touted the open-door policy that Pacha has created for her students. "Melinda wants the best for the arts (here at)

Considering her lengthy tenure, the scenic designer has seen her fair share of scene changes.

In the 1980s, she worked out of Shiple Hall, today a freshman dorm. There were also some years in the 1990s that saw the theatre program set up shop in the architecture building.

There the program was able to establish a small stage amongst students of all majors, even pre-dental.

"We were surrounded by a sea of people in scrubs," Pacha said.

And the most recent move in 2004 from Outer Drive back to the McNichols campus has brought Pacha closer to her students.

Overall, the decision to stick with UDM has kept Pacha in high spirits.

"I always think people who work at universities stay younger longer," said Pacha, holding back a grin. "The students, they keep you

Pacha is now looking forward to a bit of downtime before production begins on the next UDM production, Last Stand," another script she helped find. 

And just like all the times before, Pacha will use her expertise, her creativity and her plentitude of costumes and accessories to help define the characters on stage. 

Whether or not you notice, it is all a part of something she calls "the magic of

 

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