Four students design not only a play but also a career path

For more than a decade student designers were used sporadically in theatre productions on campus, but “Waiting for Godot” changed that this year.

Michael Sande has been the theatre manager for 13 years and said in that time there has never been four student designers for a production.

Maeve Kiely, DJ Medina, Vanessa Stewart and Cynthia Ayala were the four students chosen to design for the play.

Kiely was the costume designer for Godot and has attended Pierce since she was 14 years old.

“I took technical theatre classes in 2010 and have attended Pierce for five years,” Kiely said. “Every semester since 2010 I’ve taken classes.”

Challenges arise during the production of a play and each person can handle the issues differently.

“It was hard to believe in what you were doing and to get over that vulnerability,” Kiely said. “As a designer you have to gain that confidence in what you are presenting to others. Even if they don’t agree or like it.”

Kiely plans to transfer to UCLA by Fall 2017 if she is able to take all the classes she has left. Medina was the sound technician for the play and started attending Pierce in 2002 right out of high school for music.

“As time went by and life happened I never finished my general education course,” Medina said. “I moved away for a while and when I came back about a year ago I found theatre as my calling in life.”

Medina hopes to become a sound designer once he completes his degree program. With the training and knowledge gained from Pierce he said he could fit into any position of the theatre that is needed.

“With any production there are going to be many obstacles. The pre show took forever, it’s what everyone listens to while waiting for the play to begin,” Medina said.

Setting up the speakers was one of the hurdles that Medina encountered with this play.

“I must have spent four weeks listening to a bunch of speeches from Carl Sagan, Charlie Chaplin and Franklin D. Roosevelt talking about the A-bomb and even eight terrifying words from Hitler,” Medina said.

All of that played on top of another play titled “Not I” by Samuel Beckett. Currently Medina is working on the production of “Good People” that will run at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Hollywood from April 29 to June 5.

“To those that want to go into sound design think of using some sounds in different ways than what they would be used for and keep your ears open,” Medina said. “Be open to ideas from others like you would on a creative project.”

Ayala is completing her first year at Pierce. She was a student at UCLA prior to enrolling at Pierce and is in the process of applying for the Theatre Design and Production program at UCLA.

“If someone is interested in becoming a lighting designer the best thing to do is find someone who is really good at it and shadow them and ask for guidance,” Ayala said. “Never give up on it if it’s something you really love because it will definitely take you through some rough patches.”

Godot was not the first show that Ayala has worked on, but the setup posed a different approach to her design.

“Waiting for Godot was the first show that I worked on that was performed in the round,” Ayala said. “It required me to branch out from the style of lighting that is typically done in proscenium theatres, which is what I was most familiar with.”

Over the summer Ayala will attend an intensive program at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas improve her skills. Stewart was the scenic designer for Godot and has attended Pierce since 2014.

Stewart came into Godot as a beginner with no scenic design experience at all.

“Every challenge was rewarding because I was very grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from the many talented faculty and students I hadn’t worked with before,” Stewart said.

Stewart plans to apply for internships in theatre and to continue her education as much as possible. She wants to ideally work in design or with designers in theatre making an honest living doing something she loves and cares about.

“Anyone interested in scenic design should be meticulous, forward thinking, a great listener and a team player,” Stewart said.