Southeast Missouri State University alumna Sara Wiegard of Arnold, Missouri, is working as a wardrobe assistant with the Ringling Bros. Circus, where she says she has gained many skills while touring in different cities every week.
Sara graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre performance with an emphasis in theatre design/technology from Southeast.
“I chose it because I wanted to take part in all forms of entertainment, including theatre, film and television– production arts, like costume design, scenic design and filmmaking. Specifically, it’s been a lifelong dream to work in the film industry,” Sara says.
Sara says the circus’ shows typically run from Thursday to Sunday. She assists with setting up dressing rooms for more than 40 performers. She is primarily in charge of cleaning and maintenance of the show’s costumes, and she assists with all kinds of repairs. She also helps performers when they have quick costume changes during the show. Then she helps pack everything up at the end of the week to move on to the next city. When the show was in rehearsals, she assisted with building, altering and refurbishing the costumes for the upcoming tour.
She says she helped out with the show that came to Cape Girardeau this year, but didn’t have as much time as she would have liked in the city of her alma mater. Nonetheless, the circus, she says, has afforded her some profound experiences.
“I truly enjoy seeing performers from different cultures interacting and learning from each other. I remember a moment at the beginning of last year’s tour when I watched a member of the Chinese troupe trying to teach our American ringmaster how to count in Chinese. Then the ringmaster went on to teach the Chinese acrobat to count in English. His accomplished smile will always stick with me. I’ve seen a lot of such moments in my short time with the show,” Sara says.
She says she chose to attend Southeast because she received a scholarship that covered her tuition and housing. During her tenure, she established a connection with her professors, which helped her secure a position with the circus.
“The circus wasn’t actually on my radar at all until a former Southeast instructor informed me of an opening. She was friends with the woman who held my job before me, and this instructor knew the woman was looking to move on. She put us in touch, and it was all success from there,” Sara says.
She says she received many opportunities to whet her appetite while attending the University. Sara says she was one of only a few students in her major, and as a result, she participated in three or more productions a semester, providing her a broad resume of production experience.
“When I told people my choice of career field, they seemed to get the impression that I would never have what they considered to be a ‘real job.’ Most people don’t know that there is more to a production than the performers. There are so many opportunities in the technical and design aspects of film, television, theatre, radio, etc., and the openings are far less competitive than, say, having to audition. I do have a real job that is consistent full-time work. I’m even unionized,” Sara says.
Sara’s future career plans include working in the production aspects of the film industry.
“I still want to work in the film industry, and I love to watch all kinds of films. I also love any and all kinds of dance. I enjoy watching dance performances and taking classes when I can, and even dancing at informal clubs and events. I took several dance courses at Southeast simply because I could,” Sara says.
To Southeast students, Sara offers some advice.
“You have to be proactive about your education. There are a lot of opportunities to train and grow in your field, but I’ve seen (and studied with) so many students who never put in more than the bare minimum effort. They seemed to think just being at college was enough. They didn’t seem to understand that they were training for a future career, and that they’d need to make themselves competitively marketable within their field. Scraping by with a degree isn’t enough. You need to be able to perform once you get the job, if you get the job at all,” Sara says.