Flight Path

Flight Path

Megan Perez ’13

The commercial space near Quonset, R.I., where Perez landed her dream job has good parking and plenty of interior light. But most importantly, it has a 20-foot garage door.

Perez, 27, has done the usual odd jobs since graduation: waitress, tour photographer, pest exterminator. No matter how miserable (see “exterminator”), she could turn to her artistic outlet: the whimsical, maker-oriented world of cosplay. The acronym stands for costume play; it’s a form of accessible performance art, and an exploding subculture full of 20-something fans of Japanese cartoons, Marvel superheroes, space operas, video games, and anything Disney.

Perez first went to AnimeBoston, one of the biggest regional cons (short for conference), as a URI freshman. She embraced role playing—and thanks to her creativity, could make costumes that were the envy of friends and friendly strangers alike. Not long after, she switched majors from animal science to art.

Among the other wide-eyed first-timers at the con that year was Thomas DePetrillo of North Kingstown, R.I. A long-time winner of every Halloween costume contest he entered, DePetrillo realized—as he posed for photo after photo in his Transformers Bumblebee costume—that he might actually be able to monetize his hobby.

Fast forward to 2016, and Perez got a part-time gig at Extreme Costumes, the company DePetrillo founded. Wielding EVA foam, corrugated polycarbonate and a hot glue gun, she made the massive arm and leg shells that fit over the aluminum frame for Zeus, a 9’6”, fully articulated robot costume commissioned by a dance troop in Austria—who doesn’t fit through normal doorways.

This year, after DePetrillo landed a contract from Hasbro, Perez came on at 40-hours a week—his fifth full-time employee.

“The population of people going to cons has grown so much,” observes Perez. “I’d like to make it my career. Hopefully it keeps getting bigger.”

By Pippa Jack