New Faculty Spotlight: Samantha C. Jones

Headshot for Samantha Jones, looking at the camera.

New SDA faculty member Samantha C. Jones.

Dynamic costume designer Samantha C. Jones has joined the faculty at the USC School of Dramatic Arts as Assistant Professor of Costume Design. Jones is one of several new faculty joining SDA this year, and brings a wealth of talent and experience to share with students. With a career spanning more than two decades, Jones is currently designing for the Cleveland Playhouse, the Huntington Stage, and has a show opening in New York in the spring.

“I believe in being a working designer as a professional because it’s valuable for students to see that this is a viable career and that you can make a living and have a happy life doing it,” said Jones. “I’m happy I get to work with the students and involve them in the projects, but also show them what it means to be a working professional.”

Costume sketch by Samantha C. Jones for The Color Purple (2019) at Drury Lane Theatre. Image courtesy of Samantha C. Jones.

Jones has long held an interest in the anthropology and storytelling aspect of clothes. Although initially drawn to fashion, she soon found that costume design was a better fit for her skills and interests, as it centered the storytelling that clothes and costumes do.

“I was in theatre but had no interest in auditioning. I thought, you can get me off this stage but I can still be telling stories? Oh, this is for me!” Jones laughed. “Because every play, every story is something new, a different aspect of the world, and I like to touch as many stories of those as possible.”

At Howard University, Jones was mentored by beloved professor and costume designer Reggie Ray, to whom she served as assistant while he designed for regional shows. She was introduced to Ray as an aspiring costume designer, to which Ray replied, “We’ll see.” Jones says that the years spent learning under Ray’s tutelage were some of the most formative of her life.

A group of actors onstage in colorful costumes.
Costumes designed by Samantha C. Jones from The Color Purple. Photo courtesy of Samantha C. Jones.

Jones then earned a graduate degree in Costume Design from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, and worked for many years designing costumes for theatre in Chicago.

“I’m very much based in a kind of Chicago theatre community style, a roughing-it, storefront theatre style of work,” Jones said.

She has since made a home in Los Angeles and is thrilled to be joining the faculty at SDA.

“Everyone was really open, they were really warm, they were interested in new ideas, they were interested in pushing the program, and they have a history of doing good work,” Jones said. “I’m very happy to be here and I’m happy to be part of the USC legacy.”

One thing Professor Jones hopes to impart to students is the power of storytelling through a visual medium, and helping students—and particularly undergrads, who may be just starting out in their costume design journeys—find their voice.

“I have a deep love of research and world history and anthropology as it’s told through clothes, which I think costume design really does effectively,” Jones said. “Everyone has an opinion on clothes, for good or bad. I like being able to tell stories that way about people in the world and how they live their lives.”