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A Lion, a Stitch, and a Wardrobe

When it comes to design, she’s magical

To create a flat Earth costume, Ryane Disken-Cahill ’12 knew she needed materials as unconventional as the idea itself.

“It essentially was a fourth-grader’s bad model Earth,” she laughs. “I went to the 99-cent store and thought, What’s going to inspire me right now?

The final costume, complete with a volcano and a miniature lion devouring a deer, appears in an episode of Mostly 4 Millennials, an upcoming comedy show on Adult Swim.

As the show’s costume designer, Disken-Cahill relished the creative license and trust she received from the show’s creator, Derrick Beckles. From pitching a mesh-and-bedazzled pope outfit to creating handyman uniforms plastered with corporate logo parodies, “I got to just go for it,” she says. “When I first interviewed, he was like, ‘I just want it to be weird,’ and I said, ‘Great, that’s 100 percent my aesthetic.’”

Disken-Cahill has established her reputation in the comedy scene, where her costumes help weave together a show’s textures, patterns, colors, and other design elements. Her extraordinary wardrobes allow the concept of a bizarre, larger-than-life world to fully materialize.

After graduating from Swarthmore, Disken-Cahill launched a career in her native New York City, eventually becoming the costume designer for the truTV series Jon Glaser Loves Gear. In addition, she’s created costumes for the second season of Adult Swim’s Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, and several short films and music videos. In this creative world—where the cast, set, and production design can change overnight, if not faster—Disken-Cahill thrives.

“I love last-minute, putting-stuff-together, on-your-toes creative thinking,” she says. “At Swarthmore, I was convinced I couldn’t come up with brilliant ideas until absolutely the last minute.”

College is also where she honed her ability to swiftly solve design puzzles. She fondly recalls Logan Grider’s “24-hour draw/paint/whatevermediumyouchoose-a-thon”—12 hours of collective sculpting followed by 12 hours of fervent drawing.

“Suddenly, everything in Old Tarble was a potential material one might use to capture the crazy fish we had all worked together to build,” she says. “I learned a lot about creative resourcefulness in that class—and that sometimes the more interesting choice can be discovered when you allow yourself to veer from tradition.”

Yet Disken-Cahill’s favorite part is not the rush of crafting new costumes, but the chance to see actor and outfit become one.

“You can tell when a performer feels good in their costume,” she says, pointing to a video of Jon Glaser sporting a neon cowboy getup, complete with fringe along the sleeves. “There was a lot of love that went into that. Watching him walk around and knowing how good he felt in my costume makes everything worth it.”