Cierra Coan BFA 2015, Costume Design
Cierra came to interview with Toni-Leslie James and Neno Russell during her senior year of high school. “I remember it being really cold and snowy. I saw the costumes designed by Josh Quinn for Dangerous Liaisons and they were gorgeous.” After seeing that and Theresa Bush’s work on The Skriker, “It was really cool to see juxtaposition of the two genres.”
About her time at VCU, Cierra explains, “I was fortunate to be there when AMC’s Turn and PBS’s Mercy Street starting filming in Richmond.” Since Neno Russell knew both of the shows’ designers, he was hired to help with construction and Cierra got to build for both shows.
“Toni and Neno were about making sure we were prepared for the outside world…getting into the biz.” During her senior year, she assisted Toni at Yale University for Familiar, “it was an amazing opportunity to see how a repertory theatre runs versus college.”
She received the Allen Lee Hughes fellowship after graduation, which began her career in the costume department at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theatre. She later became Assistant to the Costume Director, Joseph L. Salasovich, then got a title bump to Associate Costume Director. “I help the shop run as efficiently as possible. Sometimes I do research to keep the designs accurate. I shop and source most things, assist in fittings, basically anything that isn’t the construction of costumes.”
In 2016, Cierra designed Heathers, The Musical for the Red Branch Theatre in Ellicott City, MD. She also works with Toni each year when she comes to Arena. “VCU taught me the business side in a way that a lot of programs don’t. How to budget a show and stay on budget with sourcing. How to make a costume bible so anyone can put up a show after you’ve left.”
Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the January 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter