Ora Jewell-Busche Tells Stories Through Her Costumes, Makeup, and Wig Designs

DD ARTIST PROFILE SERIES - Ora Jewell-Busche, Costume Designer. 

Meet the costume designer for the upcoming LOON production of La Bohème
Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm & Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 pm

Marshall Performing Arts Center on the UMD Campus

 “Ora Jewell-Busche is a creative force. The combination of imagination and skill that she brings to each project has been a huge part of LOON's growth over the past decade. Her work is an essential part of our storytelling, delighting our audience while also making each singing actor feel confident when they take the stage.”  Sarah Lawrence, General Artistic Director for Lyric Opera of the North

Duluth native Ora Jewell-Busche grew up fashioning costumes for herself, her sister, and for their dolls. She explained that she felt lucky to have a mother and grandmother who sewed and taught her how to sew as well.

At Duluth Central High School, one of Ora’s mentors, theatre director Liz Larson, gave her the job of costume designing for the school’s theater productions. Ora loved doing costumes, and the seed was planted for what she wanted to do for a career.

Ora was inspired to go on to DePaul University where she earned her BFA in Costume Design with specialization in Wigs and Makeup.

“My interest in wig and makeup didn’t start until I was in college. As costume design students, we were required to take a theatrical makeup class as part of our degree,” she said.

Ora added, “As a teenager who had little to no interest in makeup, the class was a revelation. ‘You can use makeup to become an old man? a fairy? a tree? a dragon?’ I had a great teacher, Nan Zabriskie, who taught me all that, and who I then assisted through the rest of college.”

Jewell-Busche enjoyed creating costumes for Little Loon’s touring production of “Hansel and Gretel.” (LOON 2022) (Photographer Michelle Sangster)

After college, Ora was based in Chicago where she worked at a number of places including the Chicago Shakespeare Theater as a wig designer, with Lookingglass Theater as a wig prosthetic and hair piece designer, and with Drury Lane Oakbrook as a wig designer.

She also worked as a Makeup Instructor for the First School of Makeup Artistry in Chicago. “I have tried to teach and mentor anyone who comes into my orbit and wants to learn.”

Other places she has worked include the Hawaii Opera Theater, Apple Tree Theater, Jungle Theater, Pacific Symphony, among many other sites.

She was a costumer on the major motion picture “Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Deciding to move back to Duluth, in 2012, she began working with LOON as a Wig and Makeup Designer on many productions and Costume Designer for several operas as well.

“I love the scale of opera, grand stories, fantastic locations, tons of people. The magic of LOON is that we get to create those big, fantastic worlds for the Northland community,” Ora said. “There are so many people who love opera here, and each show, we recruit more people who had no idea they loved opera.”

For Don Giovanni” (LOON 2016), Jewell-Busche created beautiful period designs. (Photographer Michelle Sangster)

Life in Duluth

After living and working in Chicago for 13 years and then using L.A. as a home base for five years, Ora came back to live in Duluth in 2017.

“I knew that I always wanted to move back to Duluth. I adore the lake and the city, and missed having a full change of seasons, as well as being close to my parents and extended family. I was also at the point in my career where I was traveling a lot for work and could easily travel out of Duluth,” she said.

Ora lives in Duluth with her partner and his daughter, and their two dogs. She enjoys baking sourdough bread with her mom for local farmers’ markets, and she is planning a big vegetable garden. She also loves to camp and cabin as many times during the summer as possible.”

For “Rigoletto” (LOON 2017), Ora’s Costume Design showed her wonderful attention to detail. (Photographer Henry Roberts)

“In Duluth, I have mostly worked with Lyric Opera of the North, while also doing a show at UMD theater and recently, “Dinner for One” at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.”

“I am also very involved in the emerging film scene here in northern Minnesota,” she said. Ora has worked as costumer designer, key hair, makeup, and costumes for several films, including “Rescuing Christmas,” filmed in Duluth.

She added, “I think we are so lucky with our arts community here in the Twin Ports. We have a long history of working artists. I grew up around ceramics created by local artists, poetry by local poets Louis Jenkins and Barton Sutter, and when I returned as an adult, an even richer scene full of musicians, painters, and many other disciplines.”

“Les Uncomfortables” (LOON 2016) Costume, Wig, and Makeup Designer Ora Jewell-Busche had fun with the designs for this spoof of “Les Misérables.” Photo by Todd Higgins ToddHPhoto.com

Rewarding Work and Collaboration

Ora noted, “I work best with people to bounce ideas off, and other people’s thoughts and ideas always spark more in me. I truly believe that a good collaborative vision is always richer and fuller than a world created by one person.”

“I am someone who has constant creative thoughts and project ideas. Theater and opera give me an outlet for those things,” she added. “I love making something out of seemingly nothing, and this medium gives me the opportunity to create for other people. Being able to do it for my job, getting to do it on a daily basis, is very fulfilling.”

“Barber of Seville” (LOON 2015) ranks as one of Ora’ s favorite operas, working as Costume, Wig, and Makeup designer. (Photographer Todd Higgins)

“La Bohème” Design Inspirations

“La Bohème” can be tricky because it has so many people in it, and often past productions have focused on the poverty and desperation of the main characters,” said Ora.

“As the costume designer, I am very lucky to be working with our director Rose Freeman,” she noted. “We are focusing on how artists can pull beauty and wonder from the tiniest scraps of cloth and paper and friendship. That really, at the center of this story, is a little family of artists who make such beauty together.”

“When I started thinking about this show, I focused on the artists who lived in Paris during the last part of the 19th century and the start of the 20th. They created very interesting textures in the work, but also in the clothing,” she noted.

“Gustav Klimt” was a major inspiration, as was the designer Emilie Louise Flöge who actually created many of the clothes that you see in Klimt paintings. I was also given the starting point of bizarre Victorian Christmas cards by Rose, and have taken a bit of that oddness into how the artists dress themselves,” she said.

Ora concluded, “This story is a classic, and has been the inspiration for other stories as well. It will be a classic, big, beautiful stage opera, full of a ton of incredible voices.”

La Bohème Information
Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm & Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 pm
Marshall Performing Arts Center on the UMD Campus
Composed by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.
LOON’s first production of Puccini’s classic, featuring passionate lovers, struggling artists, and soaring singing.
Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including one intermission.
Reserved Seating $39/$49/$59 • Students $12 in any section with valid Student ID
Tickets: Online at loonopera.org  Or call, 218-464-0922 for more information.









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