It takes a village — and Montclair State Theatre Production and Design alumni — to produce the spectacular Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
Since its modest beginnings in 1924, the parade has grown into a Thanksgiving tradition, this year featuring 16 giant balloons, 26 full-sized floats and 900 clowns. One hundred make-up artists and 150 dressers will be on hand Thanksgiving morning, with 4,000 Macy’s employees and volunteers helping to keep things moving along.
“We’re working year-round to make sure this parade happens on Thanksgiving morning,” says Matt Kaprielian ’13 in a Macy’s promotional parade video. Kaprielian is among the production and design alumni working on this year’s parade and currently manages operations in Macy’s Parade Studio’s Balloon Studio.
At Montclair State, the practice-based curriculum in the Theatre and Dance Department’s production and design concentration gives students opportunities to work in a range of performance venues and genres. “They leave us with knowledge gained from intensive coursework and experience grounded in multiple jobs on realized productions,” says Professor Debra Otte. “It’s a pre-professional program that effectively prepares undergraduates to work in theatre after graduation — and the proof is in our alumni.”
Those alumni include Brett Gearity ’12, who has worked at the Macy’s Parade Studio since 2000 in various capacities and has been its Production & Events manager for the past seven years. His responsibilities include float production and construction of the parade’s lavish floats.
Kiefer Handschuh ’18 focused on scenic fabrication, carpentry, design and technical direction as a student, skills that prepared him for his role as a Parade Studio carpenter, metalworker and automation technician.
Freelance costume designer Jeffrey Colton Reid ’17 — who is known professionally as Jeffrey Colton — and seamstress, costume technician and crafter Noele Rasco ’15, contribute their talents to the costuming of the hundreds of people who take part in the parade. Christina Pfefferkorn ’14, who won a national award for scenic design as a senior at Montclair State, and Jesse Haack ’15, who is an Arts and Cultural Programming stage technician for College of the Arts Events Services, are also working on the production.
For Kaprielian, his role with the parade is clearly a labor of love. As he says in the video, “I’m still amazed that this is actually where I’m working now.”