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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Professor Rafael Jaen on his first semester at UMass Boston

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Professor Rafael Jaen

This is Professor Rafael Jaen’s first semester teaching at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and he is already enjoying his new surroundings. He says his favorite part about the university is the diverse student population. He feels the wide range of students gives the university a more authentic, real-life environment, and he commends his students on their dedication and genuine desire to learn.
Jaen is currently teaching two courses here at UMass Boston, including Costume Construction, which he describes as what happens after design. More specifically, the course teaches students the Equity Agreements of the Actor’s Equity Association. These are the rules of conduct followed by professionals, in order to maintain the dignity of the acting profession and the welfare of fellow performers. It would teach the responsibilities of designers, wardrobe supervisors, and actors when they are handling costumes.
The second class he instructs is Costume History, which focuses on the book, “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger. It is adapted from the script of a TV series of the same name. The book teaches students about the traditional Western cultural aesthetics, and focuses on the way women are depicted in classic oil paintings and advertisements.
Jaen was focused on Lighting Design while studying theater design at New York University. Although during his junior year, he took a course in Costume Design with one of his mentors, Carrie Robbins. For one class, Robbins brought in a Broadway actress to critique the students’ work. Jaen says the conversation with the actress about his work inspired him to become a costume designer. He was fascinated by the idea of the motivations and qualities of a character affecting what they wear. He also enjoyed collaborating with another artist to create a visual piece that contributes to the telling of a play’s story.
Jaen’s first experience in the theater profession was as an assistant set designer in Caracas, Venezuela. When asked to choose his favorite costume that he has designed, Jaen chooses two. The first is a Queen Elizabeth costume he designed for Amy Freed’s play, “The Beard of Avon.” The second is the Duchess costume for John Webstre’s “The Duchess of Malfi.” Both pieces were made out of lush fabrics and trims. The first is an Elizabethan period costume and the second one is a Gothic period costume.
Jaen is currently designing costumes for the upcoming musical at UMass Boston, “Urinetown.” After designing the costumes, Jaen had several of his own students help with the construction of the clothes, giving students a chance to practice their sewing skills. It also allows students to see the way time and budget is a factor when creating costumes.
After teaching at Emerson College for 23 years, Jaen is a new addition to the Department of Performing Arts at UMass Boston. He says the theater department is what drew him to come to this university. He is enthusiastic about the department expanding and the opportunities it is creating for students, including preparing them sufficiently for internships. He also enjoys the opportunity to create new courses that he currently teaches.