A Life In The Theatre
The Scenic Designer
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.
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
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.
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