Arts & Culture

Theater student’s agenda: graduate, move north, find work

Brittani Rappise’s time at the University of West Florida is coming to an end soon, but her professional career is just waiting to begin.

After graduation in May, the Totowa, N.J., native plans to leave the Pensacola area and move to New York or Philadelphia and seek work in the theater. She’ll take with her a rich and varied college theater experience. The senior has designed wigs and makeup for every UWF show at Center for Fine and Performing Arts for the last two years. She performs as well: Rappise will play Marti in the April production of “Grease.”

And in 2020, what does the senior want to be doing when she receives her 10-year-UWF alumni reunion invitation in the mail?

“Oh boy, that is a big question” she said. “In 10 years, I hope to be working professionally in theater as a performer, a wig and make-up designer or as a choreographer because I love doing all three,” she said, while taking a few minutes away from her makeup and design work for UWF’s next production, “The Learned Ladies.” “I am a little bit of an over-achiever.”

At UWF, she said she has had the opportunity to develop and excel in each of her favorite areas – performing, wig and makeup design and choreography. “I hope in my future career I will be able to continue doing everything I love to do.”

For “The Learned Ladies,” director Geoffrey Scott Bleeker’s design concept – Restoration Period meets Disco Days – has been a creative opportunity of epic proportions for Rappise and the other students. The over-the-top nature of the comedy and high-concept theme opened the door to pull-out-all-the-stops costumes and wigs for the performers.

For one female character named Armond, Rappise took a red wig and entwined within its long curly locks a mini-bookshelf and then accented the 2-feet-high hirsute masterpiece with 5-inch wide, bright orange butterflies to complement Armond’s bright yellow and orange gown. The young designer estimated she spent about 10 hours planning, sketching and designing each lady’s look in “The Learned Ladies.”

A behind-the-scenes collaboration for each Department of Threatre presentation begins months before the performance dates, and it’s this process that pushes her to deliver her best work.

“For each character, the director gave us his vision of who they are, their character traits, how they behave, etc., and he may already have color ideas or style suggestions,” Rappise said. “From there I try to combine my own ideas with the director’s and research images and draw sketches to see if I’m on the right page. If I am, I continue with that line of research and style and continue drawing. If I am not on the same page, I go back to the drawing board and start over.”

The process “makes me look in different directions and to different places for inspiration,” she said.

Performances of Moliere’s “The Learned Ladies” are scheduled Feb. 18, 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 21 and 28 at 2:30 p.m. in Mainstage Theatre. Catch Rappise in “Grease” April 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 at 8 p.m. and April 11 and 18 at 2:30 p.m. also in Mainstage Theatre.

By Susie Forrester, University Marketing Communications