Freelance Scenic Designer
After I earned my Masters of Fine Arts in Scenic Design at the University of Virginia in 2016, I moved to Chicago the following summer. Since then, I have been working primarily as a freelance scenic designer in Chicago storefront theaters, occasionally traveling outside the midwest for productions, and assisting other scenic designers part time.
The diversity of the Theater Studies program's offerings made a huge difference for me. I didn't know what I wanted to do, I just loved theater. I was able to take classes in every onstage and backstage area, which helped me determine what I loved enough to make a career. I was able to assist professors on designs, and had a work study job backstage. I was really active in student theater, which exposed me to many more people, and gave me a feeling of ownership over my work, which helped build the confidence I needed to move forward as a designer.
My advice to current students is to take EVERYTHING you can. It’s so easy to only take the required major classes, and then fill every other slot with classes directly related to your favorite part of theater. By taking classes out of your comfort zone, whether it’s additional design classes as an actor, or directing classes as a lighting designer, having a completely different perspective can inform your work in a way that nothing else can. You gain empathy for the other departments, and the production becomes more seamless and cohesive when you are aware of what your collaborators are dealing with on their ends.