It was a great honor to be chosen to represent region II in Set Design at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Nationals in Washington D.C.. I was chosen for my set design for Hedda Gabler, at the same time Tannis Kappell the lighting designer for the show had also been chose to go to Nationals. We headed to the Buffalo Niagara Airport Tuesday morning anxious of the few days ahead that is to come.

At our arrival at the Kennedy Center, we were instructed to set up our design presentation amongst other designers that were chose. There are 8 regions and therefore 8 set designers, lighting designers, sound designer and costume designers setting up.
For the scene designers, our respondent was Tony Cisek. After brief presentations from the student designers, Tony asked us questions about the design as well as gave us feed back.

The following three days was master classes with Skip (C.W. Mercier). Both the scene designers and the costume designers attended the session and it was set up so since Skip is both a scenic designer and costume designer. We did 3 small projects with him and also a lot of talking which was super helpful.
The first assignment was to draw our selves naked in the mirror as a homework assignment before we got to the festival. We pinned our drawings up on the wall and he pointed out to us scale and proportion issues with our drawing. He said the biggest present he could give us is to have us draw ourselves naked once a week (he does so).

The second assignment was also a pre-assignment where we had to read the script for Bacchae. We went over the script and did some scene sketching. He also shared with us his 12 step process for designing that I will list here.

Skip’s 12 Step Design Process:
1. Understand the Story (Before talking to the director). At the first meeting with the director, do not bring any visual image.
2. List what the play can’t do with out.
3. Answer the Who, What, Where of the story.
4. Identify 10 key moments in the play.
5. Find out what of the play you identify with.
6. Create an emotional response to the story.
7. Perspective sketching for the 10 scenes of the play.
8. Research to understand the time and place of the play.
9. Identify the themes of the story.
10. More research.
11. Create a visual response without worrying about the theatre space.
12. Learn about the space it’s happening in and understand your resources.

Skip said that he is never worried about being stuck in the design process because he follows his 12 steps. That must be nice! I think I might try this process out sometime. However, many of the design steps he takes can be identified with design lessons taught by Lynne.

The third assignment was to design a set for a script that Skip provided for us; Cap O’ Rushes, an English folktale. He wanted us to design the set with the mindset that our director was Tim Burton. Everyone had great ideas and did such a good job within the limited amount of time. For this assignment, the costume designers had to design costumes for all the characters. I was very jealous of each and every one of their quick sketching skills.  A costume designer, Michelle Ney, also participated in this exercise. Her sketches were so awesome and she did it in such a matter of 3 hours!

In addition for the workshops, I got to meet many awesome student designers. It was a great experience and allowed me to see what I need to work on as a theatre artist.