By Shelby McGuire
Professor Rebekah Priebe has been behind the theater curtain for as long as she can remember. Her father worked in the theater industry in her hometown in Kansas as a director and scenic and lighting designer.
As a little girl, she was enchanted by the whimsey of theater, eager to be a part of the magic. She recalls childhood memories of her and her sister spending time in the theater, begging their dad to let them help paint sets when they were too young to be of any help. “Being involved in the whole spectacle of theater was really cool,” Priebe said, “and it just felt like second nature.”
It was that second nature that led Priebe to pursue degrees in Theatre and Costume Design and eventually come to Cedarville as an assistant professor of theatre in the fall of 2016 to teach courses in theater makeup and costume design.
The first production she remembers seeing was “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat,” a set that her dad worked on. She was inspired by the design of that production even at an early age, and she said it made a real impact on her because it was “so big and fun and colorful.”
As she grew up, she began to hone her skills in acting and develop her love for the performance. She played roles in many plays throughout her childhood, and by the time she was ready to go to college, she had made plans to teach theater and English to high schoolers.
She attended Friends University and began pursuing her degrees in Theatre and English Literature. However, when her senior year came and she was getting ready for a semester of student teaching, she realized she wasn’t excited about it. Friends and family encouraged her that this was a sign that she needed to consider alternative possibilities.
Priebe looked back to her many years of stage acting, and considered her love for performance. She began to consider a career in professional acting. After graduation, she didn’t get very far with her acting career because another passion was tugging at her heart. She said the Lord redirected her again to a different path.
Throughout her time in undergrad, she had worked in the costume shop where she helped with design for productions. She enjoyed this opportunity to use her creative abilities and sewing skills.
After graduation, she kept up with her connections from the design sphere and began accepting freelance work in costume design instead of pursuing professional acting. This pursuit made her realize that although she loved acting, she was passionate about costume design.
In light of her new-found calling, she decided to pursue a higher degree in costume design. She went to Ohio State University and earned her M.F.A. in Costume Design. She was able to work as a graduate teaching assistant, helping undergraduate students in the costume shop. There she discovered that she enjoyed teaching — just not high schoolers. She wanted to teach costume design at the college level where students would share her passion for the craft.
“In a university, you’re mostly going to have students who are there because they are interested in studying what you are teaching and are passionate about wanting to learn,” Priebe said, “Whereas high schoolers are there because they have to be.”
She also looked forward to teaching students at a higher level of maturity.
In her last year of her program at Ohio State, she met a first-year student in the program who was a Cedarville alumnus. He told Priebe about Cedarville and how the school was looking for a costume and makeup design professor in the theater department. Priebe hadn’t heard of Cedarville before, but as she did more research and got in contact with the school, she realized that this was the place she wanted to be and the open position felt like a perfect fit.
Priebe went through the interview process and began her current position in 2016. As she settled into her office adjacent to the university’s DeVries Theatre, she said she finally felt sure of her purpose in this new position. She felt at peace and at home.
She teaches Intro to Costuming, Costume Design, Makeup Design and Stage Costume History. She also team teaches two other classes: Intro to Production Design, Intro to Technical Theatre.
“It’s really neat to see students come in who may not have any experience with costume design, or sewing, or makeup design and see how much they grow throughout a semester.”
Shelby McGuire is senior Professional Writing and Information major and arts and entertainment editor for Cedars. She enjoys working out, petting dogs, and pretending she has her life together.