RobyLane Kelley
Editorial Intern

Northeast Arts KC  President Marianne Rowse is a second-generation theatre enthusiast. She has passed her passion for her craft down to her youngest son August and works with Northeast Arts to advocate for arts in the Northeast.

Rowse works with Kansas City Repertory Theatre as the wardrobe supervisor and worked with Shakespeare Festival as a dresser. She started her theatre journey at a young age and has worked in multiple areas of its production.

Originally from Louisiana, Rowse grew up in a theatrical home. Her parents were actors who worked in theatre alongside their day jobs. At 13 years old, her father was acting in a stage production of “Mame” when the production needed help backstage with the props crew. According to Rowse, he vouched for his daughter, even though she was not quite old enough to work backstage.

“I went and started working and then I was obsessed,” Rowse said. “I did that all through high school and then I majored in theatre in college.”

While Rowse started in props, she said the fluidity of theatre companies like KCRep and Shakespeare Festival made moving to wardrobe a natural transition. 

“I started out in props, and did a little bit of wardrobe when shows needed it,” Rowse said. “I did a little bit of everything when I was in college.”

Rowse said the support from her parents to pursue theatre professionally was “really helpful.” This included driving five hours to see her college productions.

“I knew so many people whose parents were like, ‘Why aren’t you going to be a doctor or a lawyer?’” Rowse said. “My mom gave me a talking-to when I was trying to figure out what my major was going to be. She said ‘If your father and I had been in the position to work in theatre professionally all the time, we would have done that. As it is, we do other jobs to support our theatre habit. You are now in the position where you could actually train and work in theatre, and you shouldn’t give that up.”

Rowse moved to Kansas City in 1992 after graduating with her theatre degree, where she met her late husband Shane during Summer Theatre. The Kansas City Costume Company then hired Rowse for millinery work, which she said includes building hats and other items, which require hot glue. During this time,  she expanded her knowledge of sewing, which allowed Rowse to hem herself into a job with KCRep.

“I had been dressing for a while at that point, and also I could sew pretty well at that point, so I started getting backstage dresser jobs at KCRep,” Rowse said. “When the supervisor position became available, I applied for that and moved up as wardrobe supervisor from dresser.”

Inside Kansas City Repertory Theatre | Courtesy photo

Rowse continues her work for KCRep as a wardrobe supervisor and serves as a dresser at Starlight Amphitheatre. The 2024 Shakespeare Festival production of Julius Caesar marked Rowse’s third year as wardrobe supervisor for the annual festival.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s outside and it’s very much like camping,” Rowse said. “The people that I work with are really lovely. Every summer that I’ve worked there, it’s just very fun and we’re all in it together because it’s hot and sweaty and everybody knows that in advance and so everyone is super kind. I just enjoyed the group.”

The collaborative aspect of theatre continues to call Rowse back to the dressing rooms.

“It requires everyone and there is often a lot of overlap,” Rowse said. “Figuring out a problem and lots of different ideas thrown around until we find something that works.”

Her two sons, Ian and August, resemble their mother’s ambitions as they follow their own passions. Ian graduated from UMKC with a computer science degree. August is studying lighting, similar to his father, Shane. This was a shock to Shane, who felt no one desired the career, that was of interest to him, Rowse said.

Rowse encourages kids interested in theatre to give it a shot “even if it’s just for a few weeks.” She said problem-solving and quick thinking are transferable skills anyone can benefit from.

“I think theatre is often a draw for people who kind of feel like they’re misfits,” Rowse said. “You might feel like the things you learn in theatre are specific for putting on plays, but there are a lot of portable skills that you learn about.”

KCRep and Shakespeare Festival have annual summer camps available for children of all ages. Both programs have scholarship or tuition assistance opportunities for families on their websites.