Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

A Life In The Theatre
The Scenic Designer
Ian Almedia

Also see other installments:
Choreographer | Director of Marketing | Associate Producer & Company Manager
Sound Designer | Director of Volunteers | Director of Education | Director | Stage Manager | Performing Arts Fundraiser | Executive Artistic Director| Costume Designer

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with theatre professionals in non-performing careers.

Theatre Arts Management is a growing concern as many theatres come and go every year. Several universities have added a Theatre Arts Management degree to their curriculum. With a huge entertainment industry that brings so much directly to us via television and the internet, it can be a challenge to motivate audiences to come to view live theatre instead. What brings business professionals to find a home for their skills in the performing arts?

Ian Almedia is a scenic designer who met his wife, sound designer Traci Almedia , in 2000 when they were working on a production of Abie's Island Rose at the Hollywood Playhouse. While they both work separately, they enjoy working on productions together as much as possible.

John Lariviere: How did you come to be a scenic designer?
Ian Almedia: I have been doing theatre for as long as I can remember. It started in middle school, where my father was the theatre director. He moved on to high school theatre as I got older, which kept me constantly involved in one production or another. Originally I started off as an actor, but always had an interest in set design, which I finally embraced while attending Salem State College in Massachusetts. I went on to design for my father's high school shows as well as my own college. After college I worked at North Shore Music Theatre as an electrics intern for two years.

In the summer of 1999 I moved to South Florida. I was promoted from Assistant Technical Director to Technical Director at the Wilton Manors Playhouse, and a few years later went on to The Hollywood Playhouse. I designed sets for both theatres, as well as for The Acting Studio and The Mosaic Theatre, where I got a Curtain Up Nomination for Amadeus.

A few months before the 2006/2007 season began I received a call from Avi Hoffman and the New Vista Theatre Company to be their Resident Set Designer/Painter/Carpenter. I was able to accept the position and still remain Set Designer for the West Boca High School Theatre Department. My latest work can now be seen in the opening production of the New Vista Theatre's second season, Funny Girl.

JL: What exactly does a scenic designer do?
IA: The first thing a scenic designer does is read the script to determine scenic and thematic elements which they and the director discuss and use to create a look. Then they take these ideas and convert them into a physical image. Then they create color renderings and construction plans to create the set from. Finally they oversee the installation and do any necessary finish and detail work.

JL: What experience/training do you have that has best prepared you for this?
IA: The best experience is always real life experience rather than education. I learned more in three months working professionally than I did in four years of school.

JL: Is there a difference between professional vs. educational productions?
IA: Yes. Educational theatre tends to be more experimental in the way they conceptualize their productions. Which I find to be more interesting and fun. Also when you're working with students, it's not a job to them yet, so they're always happy and eager to learn.

JL: What is your greatest challenge and what is your greatest reward as a scenic designer?
IA: My greatest challenge is trying to find the balance between pleasing the director, keeping the producer happy, and still being able to see what I want.

The most rewarding is the rare occasion that the curtain goes up and the applause is for the set.

JL: Do you have a story of the most difficult and/or most enjoyable shows you have designed?
IA: The most difficult has to be the one that I just completed, New Vista Theatre's production of Funny Girl. Trying to make the production what it needed to be, dealing with space limitations and time limitations made it an extremely difficult process. The most enjoyable was Man of La Mancha at the Hollywood Playhouse in 2002. That was the first set that I had done professionally that lived up to what I wanted it to be.

JL: What would you look for if you were hiring a scenic designer?
IA:Someone who is outgoing, imaginative, creative, and flexible - with lots of experience! They should be someone who doesn't mind putting in a lot of work for a big reward.

JL: What are your professional plans/goals for the future?
IA: To continue to be able to live off of doing what I love to do.

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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