Susan Brown-Strauss: professor, designer, leader

Susan Brown-Struass is a professor for the School of Stage and Screen and the resident costume designer at WCU. Photo by Jessica Chester


Susan Brown-Strauss spends many hours of her day on the campus of Western Carolina University, tackling dozens of duties to fulfill her numerous job titles.

Brown-Strauss is a professor in the School of Stage and Screen where she teaches design and technical theatre. She is also Costume Shop Director and the resident costume designer at WCU.

“I started as an art teacher. Then went back to school for my Master in Fine Arts in Fiber Arts and Costume Design. That’s how I got in to designing costumes for plays,” said Brown-Strauss.

Brown-Strauss teaches several different classes at WCU: The Theatre Experience, Costume Crafts and Makeup, Costume Technology, Introduction to Theatre and Entertainment Design. She also team-teach Design I, Design II, BA Senior Projects. She works with stage and screen directors, other designers and students throughout her workday.

Brown-Strauss designing costumes for her latest project "The Drowsy Chaperone". Photo by Jessica Chester

As resident costume designer of WCU, Brown-Strauss, along with Tony Sirk, costume shop manager, and the costume shop assistants, either designer the costumes for plays performed at WCU from scratch, or they refurbish old costumes for reuse.

While she enjoys all of her positions at WCU, her favorite and most rewarding aspect as she says, “the collaboration between faculty and students that occurs in a production where students can take what they learn in the classroom and put it into practice on stage or on the screen.”

Brown-Strauss not only gets to do the job she loves, which is designing and being in the classrom, she also gets to teach students and expand their passion for theatre as well.

“This is what every instructor hopes for – that spark of interest and inspiration [in the student] that will take on a life and direction of its own. Wherever it leads, you hope it inspires an appreciation for design and an on-going interest in the student pursuing their personal form of creativity — of course I hope it is costume related,” said Brown-Strauss.
See what she said on her work and career.