An OU professor of drama recently received an award of excellence for his teaching and involvement with the arts from the College of Fine Arts.
Lloyd Cracknell, an associate professor of costume design, joined OU’s faculty 10 years ago to obtain his masters in fine arts. His current roles in the University Theatre include professor, costume designer for mainstage shows and mentor to fine arts students.
OU faculty and students named Cracknell the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts' 2020 Irene and Julian J. Rothbaum Presidential Professor of Excellence in the Arts.
Cracknell said he began working in the fashion industry in England, his first job being with a company that designed the late Princess Diana’s wedding dress. His resume reflects his international experience, which ranges from designing knitwear for Versace to working for Regina Porter, a sportswear company based in New York.
Fulfillment was something Cracknell said he had difficulty finding in fashion. He said it wasn’t until he came to OU that he found his true passion.
“I just got really bored with fashion and was longing for something that incorporated my love of costume and history,” Cracknell said. “I heard about OU’s program from a friend of mine … and ended up meeting (my predecessor) Michael Buchwald. He offered me a position on the MFA program … and retired three years later. I applied for the job, got it and have been here ever since.”
Although Cracknell has worked at OU for 10 years, he said he was surprised to receive the Rothbaum Award after seeing various mentors accept it in years past. He said having students and faculty nominate him is extremely rewarding and humbling.
“To receive (nomination) letters (from students) is really heartwarming, because you begin to realize that, even the smallest things, they noticed,” Cracknell said. “You realize that, in some small way, you’ve given that person the next step on the ladder to where they want to go. … It makes me proud to get it.”
This semester, Cracknell said he is teaching costume design one and three, makeup, a design class called draping and drafting, and co-teaching costume construction and professional perspective. Cracknell said he’s had the pleasure of instructing a variety of students from different schools.
“We normally collaborate with the School of Musical Theatre, the School of Drama, the School of Dance and the School of Music,” Cracknell said. “We’ve also had people from the School of Architecture and even a Gaylord student. … Classes are open to everyone, and that’s what our job is — we take someone that has a passion and guide them.”
Cracknell said he is also in charge of working with students in the costume shop on lab productions, which are the smaller shows staged by the University Theatre. He said his job allows him to mentor a small team through design meetings, costume research and guidance in the pre-production process.
Collaboration is what makes a costume special, Cracknell said.
“There are several costumes (that I created at OU) that stand out to me, but it is usually the collaboration and the people you work with that is the best part,” Cracknell said. “The magic isn’t a particular costume or set piece — it is everybody coming together with their ideas and making the best thing you possibly can together.”
Encouraging students to move beyond their comfort zones is something Cracknell said is crucial to his way of teaching. He said he has repeatedly watched challenging circumstances elicit lightbulb moments in his students throughout his career.
“(Sometimes) you see someone that comes to you a bit like a rough diamond, meaning they come with all of this passion and they are not quite sure where to put their energy,” Cracknell said. “It’s watching them blossom and giving them challenges … that is going to make them think outside of the box.”
Cracknell said he’s reached a point in his life where he loves what he does and is increasingly excited to see his students succeed.
“(When) I see the lights go up on opening night and see their reaction to stuff that has come from their creativity — from the (costume) shop to the stage with real people — it’s like opening a Christmas present,” Cracknell said. “Seeing your work onstage in person … is magical.”
School of Drama Director Seth Gordon said in a press release that the Rothbaum Award is a fitting tribute to what Cracknell has accomplished at OU.
“Lloyd is beloved by students, faculty and staff alike,” Gordon said in the release. “His quiet leadership and mentorship is something I admire. … I’m thrilled to have him as my colleague each day.”
Ultimately, Cracknell said he loves his job because of the way his work allows him to be a storyteller. He said he hopes to continue training and mentoring future storytellers in years to come.
“The whole reason for a costume is to allow the performer to perform to the best of their ability,” Cracknell said. “We’re seeing what the inner passion of a character is and how we allow them to embody that. … We put (students) in a certain costume and they suddenly go, ‘Oh, this is what I’m supposed to look like.’ That is special.”