This CNM Instructor Uses Costume Design to Make Theater Come Alive

Lila Martinez is a well-known designer but is also teaching CNM students all they need to know to create immersive and engaging productions
November 01, 2022

Lila Martinez developed a love for sewing early in life. She even considered her sewing machine another member of the family. But as she got older she worried sewing wasn’t a career so she enrolled at UNM to study medicine.

At one point, however, she allowed herself to take theater classes and had the chance to work backstage at UNM’s Popejoy Hall. Standing behind the scenes during a production she immediately knew theater was her future.

“I was backstage for a performance of Les Misrable, and I broke down crying because I felt at home and was filled with happiness,” Lila says. “I knew at that moment that that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how I would do it, but it just felt right.”

One of Lila’s biggest steps forward came when she got involved with Quarantine Productions.Quarantine Production’s Harvest Fall immersive event

Since 2014, Quarantine Productions has developed immersive theatrical and film productions that are meant to be scary or at least spooky. At Quarantine, Lila has written, stage managed, and of course, designed costumes and special effects. 

There’s a lot of work that goes into the production of these immersive shows, but it’s always rewarding. 

“My favorite part is finally seeing all of the elements come together, especially how the gory effects I’ve helped create fit with the storyline,” Lila says. “It’s like a gender reveal, but with fake blood.”

As she grew as an artist, Lila decided to start teaching at CNM and loves sharing her knowledge with students. She knows that a quality theater program can have an important effect on both students and the local economy. 

“As an instructor, I’m giving students a space to grow in our community,” she says. “The rise of the film industry in New Mexico also means that students won’t have to go out of state to work. This program helps build the economy as well as build a foundation for artist recognition.” 

Quarantine Production’s “Harvest Ball” immersive event wrapped up on Halloween day, but Lila is excited to continue to work with the crew again next year. She is also excited about what the future holds for her students.

“We are adding an advanced theater class that is very unique to New Mexico, no other school teaches it,” Lila explains. “I love being a part of the program’s growth and providing students with a space I wish I had early in my career.”