I originally trained as a performer in the music theatre program at Western Michigan University. After performing for a few years on cruise ships, I decided to go law school. In 2005, I quit my big-law-firm job, moved to a warehouse in Brooklyn and worked for the Fringe Festival then for a few months at the Public Theater building sets. Eventually, I had to go back to being an attorney to pay the bills, but started volunteering to stage manage, produce, make props, etc. In late 2011, I took the leap and designed my first full set for Gideon Productions' Honeycomb Trilogy (Advance Man, Blast Radius, Sovereign), written by my husband, Mac Rogers. We didn't have a technical crew in place so I handled many aspects of the production management, technical direction and building at our live/work space. I grew up in Michigan doing carpentry and house painting with my engineer father and making things with my crafty-wafty mother, so it was a natural fit. Also, I'm very interested in architecture, particularly the green kind, and defining space. It was kind of everything coming together in one great job.
Why New York? How did you make your way to the city?
I'm actually not one of those people who always wanted to live here. I purposely picked law schools in smaller cities and ended up in Philadelphia for several years. I was slowly introduced to NYC by friends and boyfriends then moved here in 2002. I love the community, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, but cannot lie, I wish it was warmer.
How do you negotiate artistic need and limited resources? Is there an artistic difference between how you approach an indie show versus a show with plenty of time, money etc?
I'm fairly fanatic about reusing things. My mom would say that I've been a garbage picker from an early age. I troll Build it Green, Materials for the Arts, Film Biz Recycling, Craigs List, thrift shops, my home and the garbage. About 80% of my first set was built with recycled materials. I used the doors from my shop for Sovereign in 2012 and my sister's and my furniture for Frankenstein Upstairs. I also got someone to donate a whole kitchen for You Will Make a Difference. I find the main difference between working on indie vs better financed projects is that I can pay for skilled labor to build more specialized things.
What's exciting for you about doing an indie show? What makes you cringe?
I love working on indie projects because there's usually a lot of artistic leeway and fun with re-purposed junk. The only thing that makes me cringe is unaware cheese factor. Don't get me wrong; I like cheese, but you have to do it with gusto and purpose.
What could the indie community do to make things easier for scene designers all around? What could lighting or sound or costume designers do to make your job easier on a specific production?
If producers don't have much money, provide other resources like skilled labor and/or materials. If you have some money, budget for labor as well as materials.
Tell me about something you achieved in 2013 that makes you feel really good:
I've just opened a shop and rehearsal space, called the Sand Box, in Long Island City near the Court Square stop at 44-02 11th Street, Suite 502. Our motto is Build, Play, Repeat. It's a place for independent theater and film artists to create sets and block their shows all in one facility. We're renting the shop for $75 a day and the rehearsal space for $10 an hour. I'm very proud of the space, which also houses the materials for four theater companies, Boomerang Theatre, Flux Theatre Ensemble, Gideon Productions and Vampire Cowboys. It's part of an experiment in sharing and reusing resources that I hope to expand so that many companies can store and trade their goods. Our calendar is here, and people can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to rent the space or check it out. There's more specific info in our fundraising video.
What's coming up in 2014?
I'm heading a project to build a website designed for selling/renting/bartering/giving away theater & film sets, props and costumes. It's called the Shared Independent Theater List (a.k.a. the Sh.I.T. List). The LIT Fund, a great idea in its own right, has given us a grant to establish the website and run it for the first year. It's really a triumph of small independent theater companies coming together to fund something that benefits them all. We expect it to launch in early Spring 2014. The idea is that it will fill a gap between the green resources that are already out there in NYC: Materials for the Arts, Build it Green, Film Biz Recycling, Craigslist and others. You can get more information about the Sh.I.T. List from our video @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnQBcUJyIX0