True to the various colorful personas she has assumed in the past, UNM professor Dorothy Baca proves to be a master of disguise.
“I got into television; I did a lot of early rock and roll-like music videos. My brother and I were at one point designing for Bette Midler’s world tour, ‘Divine Madness,’” Baca said. “Then, because I had done video, I got a job designing Shakespeare for an educational program. I did ‘Batman and Robin’ one summer. I did ‘The Longest Yard.’”
Baca is head of the Design for Performance program at UNM. She described her department as a fabulous one.
“Our programs are scene design, costume design, lighting design, sound design and then all the other tech things that go behind that,” Baca said. “It’s a huge program.”
It is not the first program that Baca has been a part of. She has taken part in productions from Los Angeles to New York, ranging from television to theater to the big screen.
Baca also assisted in the designing of garb used in Santa Fe 400, an event held in 2010 to celebrate the city’s 400th anniversary. The outfits she worked on were worn in theater productions seen by the royal family of Spain.
She said there is a marked difference between theater and film for a costume designer.
“For film — particularly film and hour-episodic television — as the costume designer, you are trying to create a reality that hides all the ways that film is really shocked,” Baca said. “You are trying to make it look like a realistic world in a realistic moment. Theater, because you get to see it all and get to see it on stage, the trick is to make it magical. You want it to be theatrical and for some of that magic to show.”
Baca said she prefers designing for theater. And not only does she specialize in outer garments, but she is also knowledgeable on those hidden from sight. Last month Baca gave a presentation titled “The History of Underwear: The Foundations that Shape Us.”
She said modern underwear plays a whole different role than that of previous eras.
“Underwear has a whole different meaning for us now,” she said. “Before, it was sort of engineering the clothing and what the silhouette was. It didn’t matter what your actual body type was, you would be the ideal image of the silhouette. Now, most underwear is just there to enhance what is already there.”
Baca said the changes in women’s roles in the economy and the evolution of underwear are affecting holidays such as Valentine’s Day in terms of expectations.
“One of the most unique things is that men are being highly sexualized, which didn’t use to happen,” she said. “I mean, Valentine’s Day used to be about women and garter belts and spiked heels … but the guy was not sexualized. You’re starting to see a really sexualized male, like on advertising and film.”
Baca said she returned to UNM in 1996 to be closer to her family and to where her heart and soul reside.
“You know, I never actually meant to stay away so long,” she said, “The problem was that I chose a job that there weren’t really jobs here for. After I had children, though, I decided I really wanted to move back by my family. I decided I’d teach.”
The Theatre and Dance Department’s next production will be “Vertical Road,” and will feature costumes designed and assembled by Baca and her team. It will run on certain days between Feb. 28 and March 9.