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From Barnett to Broadway

By Michael Butler

He walked the halls of Tallassee High School on Barnett Boulevard, graduating in 1989. Oh, how the landscape has changed.

Arthur Oliver, formerly known by his THS classmates as Art, is now one of the top costume designers of theater and stage.

"I grew up with the name Art, because my parents thought (Arthur) was to difficult for me to spell," he said. "I go by Arthur now."

Oliver's first opportunity to what led to his career came as a high school student.

"The Alabama Shakespeare Festival opened in 1985," he recalled. "That was pretty amazing, because that's what kind of opened the door for me to go there and become their first ever intern."

Oliver was co-creator of the Graduate/MFA program in Costume Design at LSU. He currently teaches at Harvard and NYU. "I told my class one day, this is not for the faint of heart. You're going to have the most horrible things said to you, so you need to have an iron gut. At the same time, you'll meet the best people in your life and have amazing experiences."

Costumes for Shakespeare and Company's Henry IV

With 25 years in the business, Oliver has had many of those experiences and encounters with names like Raquel Welch and Olympia Dukakis.

His work has taken him abroad from Broadway in New York to Tel Aviv in Israel. This summer he will travel to Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The North American tour of "The Great Russian Nutcracker" with the Moscow Ballet will make its way down to Oliver's old stomping grounds this summer at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre on Nov. 24.

Oliver is well known in the profession and "high on the ladder"among costume designers, he noted. "There are a couple of people ahead of me, big Tony Award-winning designers. I'm lucky that I'm where I am."

He lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. "I'm happy here," said Oliver. "(I don't get back home) as much as I'd like. I miss it. I love coming back to Tallassee, especially where my family's land is. It's my hideaway place."

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