An Entrepreneurial Student Takes to the Stage: Chris Fortier
Chris Fortier '26 discusses how his Bennington education furthers his passion for theatrical design, costuming, and props.
Despite leading his class academically, Chris Fortier ’26 only applied to three colleges and only visited two.
“When I toured Bennington,” he recounted during a recent interview at Roz’s Cafe in Commons, “I walked by the prop shop in VAPA and looked down at all the chandeliers made of Gatorade bottles, I felt like it was a perfect fit.”
That artistic ingenuity, along with the number of interesting classes and the freedom to build his own program around his interests, drew him in.
Fortier had always had an artistic streak. In high school, he started making fantastical costumes based on farm animals. He did all of the sewing painstakingly by hand. It wasn’t long before people began commissioning him.
Ready to take his talent for costume making to a wider audience, Fortier started an Etsy business called Farmhouse Fursuits, where he sells costume components, hand-printed t-shirts, hand-crafted stamps, and tote bags to people from around the world. Most feature Cliff, a lovable cartoon-like cow that serves as the focus of the company logo.
Since having come to Bennington, Fortier has learned to use a sewing machine, a revolutionary development. He has taken a hat-making class and earned a prestigious entrepreneurial Field Work Term assignment.
At Bennington, Fortier explains, “I have the freedom to take what [classes] I want and talk to the teachers in a way that's more on the same level.”
Seancolin Hankins is one of his go-to faculty members.
Entering the prop shop, the beautiful and sophisticated Gatorade-bottle chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. (One wouldn’t know they are made of recycled components at all, unless, as Fortier did, they saw the placard describing the materials in the window above.) Between greeting students and helping to lift props onto sawhorses, Hankins shared his experience of working with Chris.
“He took my props class this past fall,” Hankins said. “From the beginning, I could tell Chris was passionate about his work. When we started talking about the final props for that class, Chris, he opened up a binder, and he had sketches. He had reference images, like a professional props person would. He'd done his research. He knew what he wanted and was able to have a conversation about it.”
Hankins credits small class sizes, often ten or fewer, with allowing him to get to know students, their interests, and what sorts of projects would be a good fit for them or the skills they need to develop.
For instance, this term’s faculty production, Unibeauty and Her Wicked Daughters, included a giant dragon puppet, which has some similarities to the costumes Fortier is known for.
“The moment I read the script, I was like ‘Chris! Let me see if Chris is interested.’”
Theatrical designer and faculty member Sue Rees provided initial guidance; Hankins built the framework, including a lever to operate a working mouth; and Chris took it from there. The head of the dragon is crafted out of foam covered with metallic paint that glows under the stage lights. Big red eyes feature black vertical pupils shaped like thunderbolts.
“I'm kind of realizing now that what I want to do is theatrical design,” Fortier said.
Fortier is excited for a corseting class he’s signed up for next term. He plans to continue with Farmhouse Fursuits and look for Field Work Term placements in theater.