Scenic Design '10
Tell us about your current projects and career.
Since graduation I've consistently worked as a set designer and set design assistant on over 40 productions. I've designed shows in Chicago, off-Broadway, and even in Indiana. I recently designed two shows at The Gift and a new play for BaiIiwick Chicago. I also assisted Walt Spangler on Don Giovanni for the Lyric Opera.
How did The Theatre School prepare you for your career?
Well, for starters, I learned what a set designer actually is and does. I went into school with lots of enthusiasm but no real knowledge. At DePaul, you're immediately given the opportunity to design realized productions and forced to act as if you are a professional in the field. Plus, you're surrounded by the resources and support to help you figure it out. I can only imagine what the new building will add to the experience.
More importantly, the people I met at DePaul hired or recommended me for my first jobs. Because of their help, my transition from student to professional was surprisingly fluid. That isn't to say it wasn't (or currently isn't) challenging. Before school, I never imagined that this career existed or was even obtainable. The Theatre School not only prepared me for my career, it started it.
What was one thing you learned at The Theatre School that has stayed with you and that has been helpful in your current line of work?
Broadly, I learned the importance of effective communication. A perfect design is useless if no one knows what you are talking about. You have to be comfortable and confident while sharing an opinion, validating a decision, or presenting an idea. Every class I took contributed to improving or expanding my means of communicating. This can be done with drawings, scale models, research, or simply speaking loudly and with a lot of enthusiasm. Theatre is an art but also a business and you have to be articulate to make your ideas a reality.
Specifically, I mastered how to cut foam core with an exacto knife; something I do all the time.
What advice would you give to students at The Theatre School?
Be prepared to fail. You will pick the wrong color. You will go over budget. You will loose sleep designing a prop that will eventually be cut from the show. Your name will be misspelled in the program. Someone will think your idea is lame. It can feel stressful, humiliating, and disappointing; but it doesn't have to.
Remember that you are in school and only at the beginning of discovering who you are as an artist and how to work in theatre. So don't get so stressed. Making plays should be fun.