Set designer enjoys the fruits of her labor

After working for six weeks creating the set for the play “Waiting for Godot”, Vanessa Stewart, 31, enjoys the hard earned fruits of her labor.

Stewart is one of the four student designers that worked around the clock to build the complex set. At its center is a massive metal tree that was assembled and welded together bit by bit.

“Creating the tree for the play was kind of intense, but I enjoyed doing it,” Stewart said.

Stewart was involved in an accident with a taxi, which injured her for an unspecified amount of time while living in San Francisco.

During the time she spent recovering Stewart was tried to figure out how she could use her degree. The idea then came to her to pursue a career in performing arts.

When Stewart moved to Los Angeles, she put her decision into motion by continuing her education at Pierce in performing arts as a costume designer. While working with costumes for plays, she realized that she found her niche.

Though much of Stewart’s work has been on campus, she has done some side work outside of the theater department. However, most of the jobs she takes are minor since Stewart wants to concentrate on her education.

“The majority of my work has been at Pierce but I take small jobs such as commercials, because I want to focus on school,” Stewart said.

Stewart was promoted from assisting actors in changing costumes during the plays in her first year, to a set designer in her final year at Pierce. The first play she was involved in was “Caberet” as a dresser.

“At first, I was an assistant in costume designing and dressing actors in between scenes. Now I am a set designer,” Stewart said.

Stewart credits Adjunct Professor of Theater Arts in the Performing Arts Department, Eileen Gizienski, for helping mold and mentor her as a costume designer for the play “Cheese.” It was the second production Stewart worked on.

Gizienski was impressed with Stewart’s speedy transition from an assistant costume designer to creating her first set as a set designer.

“She is extremely creative and has an excellent work ethic,” Gizienski said. “Vanessa can work well in either costume or set design areas. She’s got a great eye for what works in the theatrical way.”

“Waiting for Godot” is the first play that has all student designers in more than 13 years. Stewart is proud of that as she felt that the directors of the play showed confidence in the student’s work and knowledge of how to design their show in all aspects.

“All of the students have worked really hard, spending countless hours designing the set, costumes, and lights,” Stewart said.

The managing director of “Waiting for Godot,” Michael Sande, said it is very rare to have an all student designer crew.

“This is the first time since I have been here that we’ve had an all student designer crew,” Sande said. “We just reached a point in where all the students are incredibly talented and excelled at what they did, particularly Vanessa. For a student to do both costume and set designing is rare. I’ve seen professionals do both, but for a student to do it is rare.”

Stewart has taken a set design class in the past, and the Theater of Arts Department, Michael Sende felt that she was strong enough to be the set designer of this semester’s play.

This semester’s theater structure is what is called a “black box” structure. The seats are placed in a circular form, which makes designing the set a difficult task. It gave Stewart much less room to design the set for the play. It is the first time in 15 years that it was done this way, and the seating is on all four sides of the theater.

One of Stewart’s strongest traits is her work ethic and dedication to the team. Her ability to adapt to the different structures and switch from costume design to set design is what sets her apart.

“We saw the professionalism in Vanessa last semester when she did the costume design and she’s incredibly artistic because she comes from a visual art background,” Sande said. “Everyone who has worked with Vanessa has had nothing but good reviews about her.”

Stewart has excelled in both aspects of behind the stage, but she is more comfortable with being an assistant for a costume designer. Both Sande and Gizienski noticed that Stewart showed great interest in set design.

This is Stewart’s final semester at Pierce. Even though she is unsure of her future after school she is excited for awaits for her.

“I am looking forward to continue in this industry, even as an assistant so I can learn more, and maybe a head designer someday,” Stewart said.