Young Woman Has Designs On Stage, Screen Career

By Suzanne Baker
Naperville Sun, Ill.

Maddie Peterson is translating her experience working on Naperville fashion shows to the New York stage and film scene.

Peterson, who grew up in the Naperville, said she always wanted to live in New York. “When I was 4, I tried to convince my parents to move. They said no,” she said. “So as soon as I could, I picked a college in New York. It was a no-brainer.”

Now she is studying art and specifically fashion at the Parsons School of Design in New York.

Her foray into fashion was forged when she began working with Naperville-based fashion go production company, Two K Productions, when she was 13 years old. Peterson assisted at the annual 630 Fashion Show and Women’s Club events.

She said it was the relationship with the Two K founders, Kristy Brezinsky and Kristen Frederick, that connected Peterson with Chicago designers and lead to internships and other assistant positions. So by age 17, Peterson had created a clothing collection and presented it on the runway at the 630 Fashion Show.

With the array of experience under her belt, Peterson moved to New York after graduating high school in DeKalb in 2012, shifting her focus to costume design.

Knowing that she’d need to start at the bottom before working her way up, Peterson immediately started looking for internships in addition to attending school at Parsons. “I just jumped into theater community,” she said. “I figured with an internship I would get my foot in the door.”

It didn’t take long for Peterson move up the ladder. Barely three days into her internship with a The Actors Company Theatre, she was asked to fill in as a production assistant for the person who left.

She was required to be at the theater two hours before every performance and well as an hour after the show. She managed the seven-day a week schedule for more than two months, all while attending classes. “It was a very painful two months, but it was so, so worth it,” Peterson said. “You sort of start functioning on auto-pilot.”
“I didn’t sleep, but I definitely got my foot in the door.”

Since then Peterson said she began designing off-Broadway theatrical productions and assistant designed a Broadway play called “Hand To God,” which was nominated for five Tony Awards. “It’s been a wild ride,” she added.

With many theater companies slowing down during the summer, Peterson said actors often turn to film work in the summer. This summer she’s designing the costumes and helping produce the short film titled “Knockout Mouse,” described as a satirical drama about a pharmaceutical representative who is exploiting an overweight man after being offered his own show on public access television. She even tapped she flair for graphic design by painting the movie poster for the film as well.

While the budget is just $6,500, so far the film crew has raised roughly $1,100, and the staff is reaching out to friends, family and everyone for help through Kickstarter, a website dedicated to raising money for arts and tech projects around the world.

Peterson said the $6,500 goes toward equipment costs, location fees, and food for the cast and crew while they’re working.

“Lighting equipment isn’t cheap,” she said.

“Everyone who is working on the film is donating the labor,” she said. “Luckily we have that covered.”

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