Monday, February 16, 2015

Five Questions for Sean Urbantke, Scenic Designer

Sean Urbantke is a guest artist Scenic Designer for The Nosemaker's Apprentice. We asked him five questions.

Wittenberg at Amphibian Stage Productions, 2011
Scenic Design by Sean Urbantke
What first interested you in your area of design?
I was drawn in by model trains and the models of landscapes designers and builders built for movies and t.v. back in the day before all this new-fangled, computer-generated, computer aided design world that we live in today (that I have thoroughly embraced!)  I was always fascinated by the facsimile of life and the environment boiled down to miniature.  As I looked for a way to incorporate that interest into a career, designing for the theater came into my radar.  I get the opportunity through theatrical design to create a world in which the story of a play takes place; I get to read a play, extract from that a message or theme, and use that to build something that is simultaneously informed by the play and informs the production.  I get to make visual art that comes to life right in front of you.

What do you find interesting about this play?
I find this play hysterical in content, but also poignant in context.  Gavin the Nosemaker goes through a series of life changes over the course of the play, and he both finds and loses and finds himself again, and also loses himself one or two times more.  Hilarity aside, it is a great analogy to the day-to-day struggle a lot of us find ourselves in, even when we already love our place in life.  Makes you laugh, makes you think, and definitely makes you appreciate not needing plastic surgery in the medieval era.

Where have you found your inspiration for designing The Nosemaker’s Apprentice?
I work best when I've got a good sounding board for ideas.  Sometimes when a discussion happens around the design table, it’s hard to tell where an idea came from or whose it was.  In this case, David, the director, came in with a few images of his own that piqued his curiosity or tickled his notion of what this play was, and one of them was a picture of old, craggy wooden planks that formed the side of a barn.  Something about it felt so right about the world of the play that we started the conversation there with the old wood as a sort of canvas, and the rest of the ideas began to fall right into place.

Who is an artist you admire?
I don’t really have a specific artist that I admire, I just have a type.  I admire the artist who can forsake all else for their art.  I admire the artist who lives and breathes for the message they try to convey.  I admire the artist who can find time to do what they love, but also holds family close to their heart and does what they need to pay the bills.  At the heart of it, I admire the artist who has unyielding passion for what’s important to them.  I also like sunsets and long walks on the beach….

If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be? 
Good question.  Probably an avocado.  You never know what’s going on beneath its skin.

Sean Joseph Urbantke is a scenic designer based out of the Washington, D.C. area, and the theatre design and technology professor at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD.  Recent design work includes Every Tongue Confess directed by Dallas’ Jubilee Theatre artistic director Tre Garrett at the August Wilson Center for African American Studies in Pittsburgh, PA, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson directed by Lars Tatom at Anne Arundel Community college, and Shakespeare's The Tempest directed by Dr. Thomas J. Walsh at the Trinity Shakespeare Festival.  He has served as assistant scenic designer on such high profile productions as Macbeth adapted by Teller and Aaron Posner at Folger Shakespeare Theatre in D.C., and the Helen Hayes Award-winning Stunning at Woolly Mammoth Theatre directed by Anne Kauffman.  

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