When you sit down and watch a production from Southern Utah University's theatre department, one of the first things you’ll notice is the incredible costumes on display. Those costumes were created thanks to the incredible Eletra Casadei Trust Donation.
In spring of 2012, Andrea Casadei, sister of the L.A. fashion designer Eletra Casadei, was searching for a home for her sister’s collection of dresses and materials. After Eletra passed away in 2008, Andrea wanted to find the perfect place for her sister’s legacy to continue. She then met Wendy Sanders, associate professor of Theatre Arts at SUU. After getting to know the theatre program and its students better, Andrea told Sanders that the ideas the students had were so exciting, but the materials they had to work with were not. She decided that SUU would be the home of her sister’s collection, including her designs, dress patterns, materials, and signature dresses. The donation of materials was enormous, totaling 13,950 yards of fabric and trim, 16,430 yards of notions, 850 lace and beaded appliques, 7,000 buttons & zippers, and 4 industrial machines.
Thanks to the materials provided by Casadei, the students of SUU’s theatre department have been able to create over 190 unique costumes spanning across 20 different theatre and dance productions. The donation has allowed students to grow as artists and professionals, giving them hands-on experience with professional-grade materials and machinery.
“We had such big ideas that we couldn't have done without this donation.” said Heather Gonzalez, a recent graduate of SUU. “The work that we were able to create was ten-fold, it was just so much better.”
The donation has also opened the door to new opportunities for students that would not have been possible without Andrea’s involvement. To date, the connections created by this donation have resulted in five student assistantships, allowing SUU students to gain professional experience in the field of costuming and design. In addition, the donation was able to found a scholarship for promising young designers.
“As a young mother, receiving the Eletra Casadei Trust Donation scholarship has helped me set aside some of the worries of college expenses,” said Chyanne McDonnell, a student in the theatre program. “This donation has helped me to pursue my dreams.”
“Eletra came from a small town with big dreams and she was able to make them happen.” said Andrea. “I just thought it was really appropriate that Eletra’s fabrics and designs land in a small town with big dreams.”