A professor in the Auburn University at Montgomery Department of Communication and Theatre, Val Winkelman’s interest in theater was encouraged by family and mentors in her native Texas.
“I grew up in a family full of creative, talented people,” said Winkelman who has arts degrees from the Lone Star state. “At every level of my education I had excellent teachers who instilled a love for learning specifically in music, art, theater, and literature.”
At Auburn Montgomery, her scholarly activity has focused on costume design.
“I have designed costumes for Michael C. Hall, Danny Pino, and Glenn Fleshler,” Winkelman said. “I’ve also worked with many other performers, directors, stage managers, administrators, technicians, and designers who have all gone on to have huge successes in the world of academics and entertainment. I love problem solving and coming up with creative solutions.”
Winkelman has also welcomed some special visitors to the AUM campus over the years.
“I had the great honor to work with Emmy Award winner Stuart Margolin (Angel from “The Rockford Files”) and film legend Marge Champion (one-half of the Gower and Marge Champion dance duo) through the Weil Fellowship,” she recalled. “The AUM Lectures Series helped bring entertainment industry star Richard Herd (Mr. Wilhelm from “Seinfeld”) to campus to work with our students in 2017.”
Winkelman has crossed paths with other noted performers who gave concerts locally at the Davis Theatre.
“I have also done wardrobe and was the personal assistant for Academy Award winner Shirley Jones in 2006 and international recording artist Engelbert Humperdinck in 2013,” said Winkelman. “In addition, I helped facilitate an evening meal for Mr. Humperdinck and his orchestra members. But working with Ms. Jones was a highlight in my career. We had several lovely conversations, she was delightful to work with, and her performance was outstanding.”
Winkelman is especially gratified for the opportunity to work with AUM theater students and to witness their success in a challenging and competitive field.
“I am unbelievably proud of our students who have had personal triumphs on a regional and national level in design, technology, directing, management, and performance,” she said. “Many are working professionally across the United States and several of our alumni have gone on to receive their Master of Fine Arts degrees. While a student at AUM, Jess Meuse was on Season 13 of ‘American Idol’ and was a Top 4 National Finalist.”
Winkelman stresses that theater is a very collaborative art form requiring teamwork, adding “I have been very fortunate to work with many, many talented and inspiring people.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery (aum.edu) and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 700 newspapers and magazines (getnickt.com).
Editor’s note: The word “theatre” is spelled that way in this article in proper names. In the cases were the term is used generally, in non-proper names it is spelled “theater.” This is intentional.