Theater students use talent to make masks in response to COVID-19

Though normally they would be sewing and finishing alterations on costumes for the spring plays, theater students at Marshall University instead employing their talents to create face masks to aid in curbing the spread of COVID-19. 

“We all knew that the community was in need, and we all have the skills to sew, so why not work together to keep our friends, family and the community as safe as possible?” said Alyssa Poindexter, senior theater major.

The effort to create masks was a collaboration between students and faculty members Mike Murphy and Olivia Trees. They provided the initial materials from the costume shop and then they bought fabric and sought donations, Poindexter said.

“We started out with elastic and fabric pulled from stock in the costume shop, but we ran out of that fabric pretty quickly,” she said. “So, we all have gone out and got some more material whether it’s through donations or out of pocket.”

 Shonna Reeves, another theater student who volunteered to make masks, said the process was enjoyable and rewarding to know she was able to impact her community.

“I had taken the costuming class my freshman year, so it was nice to be able to refresh myself on the sewing machine,” Reeves said. “It brings me joy to know that a small act of kindness can potentially save someone’s life.”

Poindexter said she found the process gratifying because she has underling health issues and felt the need to step in to create masks for other. 

“I have underlying health issues, so when I saw that masks were flying off the shelf, we knew we should step in,” she said. “I have had a few people in the military reach out to me to make them masks, so it feels good to see that you’re potentially helping the people around you stay safe.”

The group has created approximately 680 masks and donated them to local hospitals, but donations have gone as far as New York and California, Poindexter said.

“We have donated to hospitals in Huntington as well as Charleston,” she said. “We’ve had a few orders from out of state. I’ve had four go to New York, two go to Florida, one go to California. We’re sending them to whoever is in need.”

As an actor, Reeves is accustomed to performing for an audience and said it was easy to translate that service into creating masks for the community. 

“I love to have the public react to what we are doing on stage,” Reeves said. “The shows we do are for the public, not for ourselves. So naturally, not just myself but my fellow students, I jumped in immediately.”

Ralph May can be contacted at [email protected]