Ready to Design Awards

Each year, SETC partners with renowned professional theatres to co-sponsor the Ready to Design (previously Ready to Work) Awards, which help talented young designers jumpstart their professional careers. Designers are chosen from all graduate-level entrants to the annual Design Competition at the SETC Convention. There are no additional application forms or fees. Awards are based on design style and each company’s upcoming productions.

Please Note: Your school must be an institutional member of SETC for you to win prizes in any of the design competitions. “Institutional member” is defined as having paid institutional dues to SETC by the registration deadline (usually in the month of January directly preceding the March convention).

2018 Sponsors & Winners

Lexington Children’s Theatre (LCT)The Rose Theater and Triad Stage returned to sponsor the 2018 Ready to Design Awards, and we welcomed Serenbe Playhouse for the first time! Each company offered a graduate student designer participating in the Design Competition at the 2018 SETC Convention in Mobile, AL, the opportunity to work as a designer on an upcoming production at their theatre.

2018 Ready to Design Award Winners

Pictured Left to Right:

  • Scenic Designer Lindsey Purvis (University of Cincinnati – CCM), selected by The Rose Theater
  • Scenic Designer Katherine Field (Virginia Commonwealth University), selected by Lexington Children’s Theatre
  • Costume Designer Hannah Chalman (Virginia Commonwealth University), selected by Triad Stage
  • Costume Designer Emily Tappan (Virginia Commonwealth University), selected by Serenbe Playhouse

Serenbe Playhouse

  • 2018: Emily Tappan, Costume Designer, Virginia Commonwealth University

Lexington Children's Theatre

  • 2018: Katherine Field, Scenic Designer, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • 2017: Rainy Edwards, Costume Designer, Florida State University
  • 2016: Manuel Ramirez Guevara, Lighting Designer, University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • 2015: Joshua Winchester, Costume Designer, Florida State University
  • 2015: Joscelyne Oktabetz, Costume Designer, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • 2014: Annie Rupprecht, Costume Designer, Florida State University
  • 2014: Kristen Geisler, Lighting Designer, University of Tenessee at Knoxville

What keeps LCT coming back as a Ready to Work Award sponsor?

VIVIAN SNIPES: Why do we return? An eleven-show season needs a myriad of designers. The breadth and depth of musical and non-musical scripts available in the field of theatre for young audiences range from dramatic to comic and realistic to fanciful. Talented designers are available aplenty in the Ready to Work competition. More importantly, as a values-based organization devoted to artistic discovery, Ready to Work fits our mission and vision statements to a tee. Guest designers, like those who join us through Ready to Work, allow LCT to share a wider spectrum of artistic perspectives and design styles with our audience. Since 2014 we have worked with four awardees, two each year! (And two others whom we did not award but were the direct result of meeting through the Ready to Work award.) The growth of our pool of incredibly gifted guest designers directly correlates to the quality of the talent within the SETC region.

What do you look for as you evaluate entries in the Design Competition?

VIVIAN SNIPES: The pool of artisans showcasing their work at SETC is both inspiring and daunting. There are so many amazing emerging artists benefiting from high quality graduate programs within this region! Wow. Wow! WOW!!! Kudos to all students, teachers, mentors and respondents! Job well done! It is quite difficult to reach a decision and why, more often than not, LCT has selected two winners, not just one. What I look for from each display varies and depends on the discipline from which we hope to select our guest designers. However, certain things are universal. I evaluate the overall artistry of the display — it speaks to how the designer will approach creating a world onstage. What details are included? Is the display utilitarian or artful? Is it focused and well thought out or last minute and haphazard? Is there great attention to detail in layout and construction? Does it draw my eye in a logical progression? How much (or little) information was included? All of these things hint at what an artist will bring to the design process. I look at the visuals to learn if I can identify the artist’s unique perspective and point of view — their artful mind — in both product and process. I read all written statements carefully seeking the artist’s voice. I read between the lines to determine what each potential designer might bring to the collaborative process. Are ideas comprehensive yet clear and concise? How well does that transfer into the presented design elements? If support materials are provided I’ll comb through the binder — how are their organization skills? How thorough are the support materials? What was their budget and how well did they maintain their goals? How knowledgeable are they in regards to materials and resources? All of these things factor into making decisions about who to interview. I usually interview four to six potential candidates then ask myself the following questions. Which designers are passionate about the art and will stretch us artistically, challenge the team and stand up for their choices? Whose availability and design aesthetic matches which productions on our season? In addition, how many times and at what do they laugh during the interview? Yes. Seriously. Artistry, skill level and personality are the key factors in final selection.

What has it been like to work with graduate-level designers?

VIVIAN SNIPES: It has been a joy! The graduate level designers with whom we have had the privilege of working bring us inspiration, energy and thoughtful perspectives on approach and to the text. They also have massive information about new equipment (especially lighting and sound designers) that they are willing to share and help us implement. They share information about the procedures and methods used in their schools (and other theatres in which they have worked) so that we as reflective artists can steal — er — adapt the methodologies that work for us.

What experience do Ready to Work designers gain from working on a production with LCT?

VIVIAN SNIPES: Our approach is to create the strongest piece of theatre possible — one that challenges the artistic team and intended audience, creatively and intellectually. One that is full of engaging moments, realizations, purpose and honesty. One that honors the playwrights words upon the page as we interpret on their behalf. We play to the toughest audience possible. Children and young adults have not learned to sit politely and watch if something does not ring true to them. Our audience will wiggle, will talk to you, will talk to their neighbors, and will not hesitate to let us know if they are not actively involved. I hope everyone who works with us understands that our art is not complete until we add the final element: the audience. And hold them on the edge of their seat, spellbound, and excited for the next moment. I also hope the Ready to Work designers are proud to have a (and in some instances another) professional credit on their resume. I know we are proud to have worked with them.

Ready to Work has turned out to be a huge success for SETC and the professional companies like LCT that we work with on this project. What else can we ALL do to help launch careers?

Be an advocate for emerging designers. Trust them. Seek them out. Recommend them to other companies. Invite them to return to your organization again and again and again.

Triad Stage

  • 2018: Hannah Chalman, Costume Designer, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • 2017: Maranda DeBusk, Lighting/Projection Designer, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • 2016: Olivia Trees, Costume Designer, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • 2015: Josafath Reynoso, Scenic Designer, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • 2014: Becki Leigh, Costume Designer, University of Florida
  • 2013: Miwa Ishii, Costume Designer, University of Tennessee

What keeps Triad Stage coming back as a Ready to Work Award sponsor?

PRESTON LANE: Triad Stage has a core value of learning and the SETC Ready to Work Award is a wonderful part of that value. We believe in fostering young talent from our region and have been able to find remarkable artists who have become part of the Triad Stage family through SETC. SETC is an organization we value deeply and always look forward to collaborating with them when possible. I love the opportunity to interact with the early career designers at the convention and greatly enjoy my opportunity to find inspiration in their vision.

What do you look for as you evaluate entries in the Design Competition?

PRESTON LANE: I look for a designer with a bold and unique perspective and someone who is authentically themselves. I want to work with artists who are deeply collaborative and innovative. I like designers who reimagine classics and make us think of old plays in a whole new way. I like designers who show me something about a play I never thought of before.

What has it been like to work with graduate-level designers?

PRESTON LANE: The next generation of young designers are forcing us to think of new ways of storytelling and their technological knowledge is unparalleled. I like collaborating with young designers because they push me and my staff out of our comfort zones to new and provocative places.

What experience do Ready to Work designers gain from working on a production at Triad Stage?

PRESTON LANE: Triad Stage likes to be a bridge to the profession for young artists and give them the opportunity to learn on their feet. Here they really understand what it means to create work for a specific audience that creates conversation in a community. Triad Stage is aspirational and we encourage our designers to dream and create big. Triad Stage believes in inclusion and a sense of family and when the designer leaves here they have not only made professional connections but have a new artistic home. We are a theater that places great emphasis on design and is constantly excited about challenging preconceived notions about how to tell a story. We create exciting design teams balancing both younger and older artists in an attempt to provoke new ways of collaborating. We believe so strongly in a culture of yes—constantly striving to help artists achieve their visions.

The Rose Theater

  • 2018: Lindsey Purvis, Scenic Designer, University of Cincinnati – CCM
  • 2017: Nevena Prodanovic, Scenic Designer, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • 2016: Bridgette Dreher, Scenic Designer, Indiana University
  • 2015: Katie Gruenhagen, Lighting Designer, Indiana University

What keeps The Rose Theater coming back as a Ready to Work Award sponsor?

MATT GUTSCHICK: We were lucky to kick off our participation in the program working with Katie Gruenhagen. We [continued] with Bridgette Dreher. Fortunately, we have also been able to hire other talented designers out of the amazing pool of artists that gather at SETC.

What do you look for as you evaluate entries in the Design Competition?

MATT GUTSCHICK: I am looking for unexpected choices and evidence of an iterative process. We enjoy witnessing a designer’s ability to navigate a design through multiple, and sometimes bold, refinements until it makes its way to the stage. We are particularly impressed with designs that are non-representational and aesthetically whole. The determining factor in our decision is always the interview, which helps us assess the potential tone and natural fit of our collaboration with the designer.

What has it been like to work with graduate-level designers?

MATT GUTSCHICK: Young designers are often free from habitual choices, meaning they generally come to work with an openness to risk and failure that is thrilling. This is one of many reasons why we look for evidence of a designer who is comfortable in a truly iterative process. This upcoming generation of designers, largely due to the advances in technology, are able to spin off on ideas with rapidity and specificity. They are also often able to mine subtext in exciting ways that give designs a sense of tension.

What experience do Ready to Work designers gain from working on a production at The Rose Theater?

MATT GUTSCHICK: Our theatre often gives designers their first experience making professional work for family audiences. The thrill and immediacy of our audience’s vocal responses to the work onstage is a source of instant gratification for designers.

We are one of the largest theatre companies for young audiences, which means our team is able to support a designer’s fullest vision for a piece. Our work environment is playful and focused. Everyone here cares on a personal level about the mission of our company. Designers often find creative fuel in this environment.

Questions?

For more information regarding registration, please email SETC Administrative Assistant Jean WentzFor questions in reference to Design or Competition Rules and Regulations, please email SETC Design Committee Chair Neno Russel.

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