Alum spotlight: Sherry Harper-McCombs (MFA ’92) and Kevin Harper-McCombs (MFA ’92)

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Sherry Harper-McCombs, MFA in Costume Design 1992

Kevin Harper-McCombs, MFA in Scenic Design, 1992

When Sherry was a costume apprentice at TheatreVirginia after finishing her undergrad at Averett College, she worked with Katherine Szari (wife of Lou Szari, former Professor of Lighting at VCU. Katherine suggested VCU’s graduate costume program.

Kevin had a BFA in Theater Tech from Auburn University and was working for Heritage Rep at UVA, when he met Ron Keller (former Chair, Head of Design and Professor of Scenic Design). “He put the bug in my ear, but I sat on it for a few years.” Before VCU, Kevin worked at numerous theatres all over the South.

Both of them took summer jobs at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival in 1990. Sherry recalls, “We were the victims of the costume shop manager who decided that we belonged together.”

When Sherry graduated in ‘92, she free-lanced for Theatre IV, TheatreVirginia and The Richmond Ballet. She also did her only film job in DC for Forrest Gump.

Sherry and Kevin got married on a Friday and left to work at the Utah Shakespeare Festival that Sunday.  Kevin recalls, “Our honeymoon was a working one and it’s never slowed down. We‘ve been on an extended working honeymoon ever since.”

Ruth Countryman (MFA ’83) was teaching costume design at Berry College in Georgia, and she invited Sherry as a guest designer. When Ruth decided to leave that position, Sherry took over the job, “and that’s how I got into teaching.” She was there for five years.

After a stint working as TD and Master Carpenter in Richmond, Kevin joined Sherry in Rome, GA, where he continued to free-lance. Once they had their 2 children, Kevin spent much of the time raising them until they were teens. Sherry comments, “Our kids were born 20 months apart and he had 5-6 years to raise them. No day care.”

Sherry is now Resident Designer and Professor of Theatre and Dance at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. She also serves as the summer costume designer at Greenbrier Valley Theatre in West Virginia, which is very close to where she grew up in Clifton Forge, VA.

Kevin has worked a variety of jobs including as scene shop manager at Dickinson, technical director and designer at York Little Theatre, instructor of wood carving at the Susquehanna Waldorf School, and even did a stint working on the college farm at Dickinson. 

Thinking back to his VCU days, Kevin says, “Dr. Parker (former Head of Graduate Studies) instilled an appreciation for the history of theatre and a way to critically think about it. Ron Keller taught me to paint and he was a paintin’ fool!”

For Sherry, it was Liz Hopper (Professor Emeritus, Costume Design). “The thing about Liz is that she has this façade that’s so fierce, but she’s such a kind and generous person. She expects a lot of her students, but she was also very caring.”

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the February 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.