In an effort to mitigate the shortage of protective personal equipment, Yale School of Drama’s costume shop is producing protective face masks and donating them to health workers at Connecticut Hospice in Branford. 

Six members of the costume shops, led by Christine Szczepanski, have been working from home to produce these masks. According to Szezepanski, they began making masks at the request of Connecticut Hospice’s medical department. 

“The [women who work at the shop] and I were concerned about what we could do to help while quarantined,” Szczepanski said. 

The team of seamstresses and students began making masks with elastic straps, but soon were told that the medical team needed masks with ties, which could be either worn alone or over an N95. The elastic masks were donated, and the team transitioned to tied masks. Then, they tweaked this model to increase production efficiency. 

School of Drama Dean James Bundy said the way the faculty, staff, students and interns have responded and adapted to the public health crisis “is nothing short of inspiring.” 

“As theater artists, we know that it is possible for more than one thing to be true at the same time,” Bundy said. “We most certainly have another calling here: to join together as a community to halt the spread of COVID-19.” 

Linda Kelley-Todd, the costume shop’s coordinator, recognizes the importance of the masks for the community. 

“We are thankful to be able to translate basic skills that we use every day in our job to help with a demand within our local community,” Kelley-Todd said.  

Kelley-Todd mentioned that one of the hardest challenges for the team was obtaining and ordering supplies. So far, they have primarily used left-over materials from the costume shop, but these materials will soon run out. 

Szczepanski coordinates the pick-up and delivery of masks. “I collect the masks from the students in the parking lot and have a setup with a designated area at my house to make the bundles,” she said. “I then hand them off to the medical department head, who launders them before general use.” 

In order to comply with health guidelines in Connecticut, creators are using personal supplies and home sewing equipment, and Szczepanski is the only person collecting and transporting the masks. 

The School of Drama has also moved classes online in response to the pandemic, which has greatly affected teachers and students alike. All rehearsals and performances at the school were cancelled for the remainder of the academic year. According to Bundy, “every aspect of training and production at the School of Drama and Yale Rep has been affected profoundly by the pandemic.” 

The Yale School of Drama was founded in 1924. 

 

Beatriz Horta | beatriz.horta@yale.edu