From Idyllwild: Alexae Visel

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Alexae Visel

“… I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started… This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country… You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.” – President Barack Obama in his farewell speech on Jan. 10, 2017

In this new regular feature, we highlight the accomplishments of our own young people, the kids who grew up in these mountains. We’re reconnecting to hear about the incredible things they’re doing locally and out in the world. 

This week we catch up with Alexae Visel who currently resides in Brooklyn, New York …

Alexae Visel moved to Idyllwild with her parents Tom and Karen and little sister Kelly shortly before her 5th birthday. She attended Idyllwild School, where Karen worked as the school librarian. Tom, of course, was the town’s preeminent locksmith for decades.

Alexae went to high school at Idyllwild Arts, graduating in 1997. After high school, she was admitted to the University of Cincinnati, where she earned her bachelor’s of fine art in Theatre Design and Production.

From there she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she worked “all jobs possible in theatre costumes. I worked backstage, in costume shops, rental houses and worked as a costume designer.” In 2012, she was accepted to the Yale School of Drama, where she earned her master’s degree in Costume Design. Since graduation, she has lived in New York, New York, where she has done a couple of Off Broadway designs, and assisted on a Broadway show, and is now working on getting into film work.

How did you get into your current occupation?

I did school plays and camp plays and put on performances in the living room since I was a little kid. It was always the thing that I just did that stuck.

Early in high school, performing didn’t interest me anymore but scenic painting took over. In college, I took a majority of scenic and costume design classes until eventually, costume work became more dominant.

I love the psychology involved in figuring out characters’ inner and physical lives.

Describe your work.

As a designer, it is my job to tell stories through clothes. I am given a script that I read and from there I figure out logistics of who is wearing what and when. I must take into consideration each character’s individual story, psychology, historical period and social context.

Alexae and sis Kelly playing dressup (nacient costume designer) as kids.


I create concept sketches and then collaborate with the director, scenic and light designers about what the style of the show is, what colors we’ll be using, and how we want the production to feel. From there, I go out into the world on a strategic scavenger hunt to find these clothes or fabrics from which to make clothes, and when I am lucky, work with a team of skilled drapers and tailors to create them.

Often costumes are pulled from stock rooms and rental houses at various theaters since building everything from scratch is normally too cost prohibitive. Found garments are altered to fit actors and concepts.

What was special about growing up in Idyllwild?

It’s hard to say since I didn’t know another place to grow up. I do feel blessed to have grown up in the middle of nature and with so much access to the artists who call Idyllwild home. I was always watching bugs, exploring creeks and climbing trees as a kid.

Who were some of your mentors growing up?

I still have fondness for my Idyllwild teachers. The ones I remember the most are the ones who encouraged my creativity. Mrs. Lombard and Mrs. Sazer-Krebbers both encouraged my interests of art and science. They made third- and eighth-grade particularly memorable.

Mrs. Caratello ran a tight ship with writing and critical thought; the ability to analyze literature and string sentences together became vital for every part of life after.

I could ring off a long list of memorable lessons Barbara Pelham provided. My favorite Barbara lesson was a stop-motion animation project that gave me an early taste of how art can be rewarding, exciting and excruciatingly slow work all at once. It was nice to have friends’ parents who were professional artists. Isabelle McCaughey, Greg Kennedy, Marshall Hawkins, Buzz Holmes and Ann Hogan all proved that growing up to be an artist was possible.

Do you have a favorite Idyllwild memory from childhood?

The summer I learned how to throw pottery was pretty great. Greg Kennedy had challenged my dad to fill a kiln so instead of sending me to a sitter, I got to spend a lot of time with my dad and Greg; hands in clay, working on a potter’s wheel and painting with glaze.

Any advice to young Idyllwilders?

When you’re thinking about your future, try to picture and reach for the life you want more than the job you want.

Also, when and if you move to the city, learn how to use the bus even if you have a car.

Do you know an Idyllwild kid with an interesting story? Please email your suggestions to Halie: halie@towncrier.com or PM us on Facebook.

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