Artist Profile Series - Lisa Scott, Setting the Scene at UMD Theatre
Every fall, the Twin Ports community grows dramatically with the large number of students coming here to attend one of several colleges, universities, and technical schools in the area. These students become a rich part of the fabric of life here, making contributions both on campus and off and adding to the vibrancy of our communities.
One of those students is Lisa Scott, a UMD Theatre student, who will be receiving her BFA degree in Theatre/Scenic Design this spring. Lisa grew up in Eden Prairie and graduated from Eden Prairie High School. Not sure of her career path after high school, she worked a variety of jobs while in her twenties, and saved her money to travel as much as she could.
She explained, “In order to broaden my horizons, I went to Normandale Community Technical College and received my Associates of Liberal Arts in 2018.” It was in 2019 that, as she explained it, she first “stumbled into theatre” doing some volunteer scenic painting at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis.
“It was something constructive I could do with my creative energy. It was work I could do that impacted something larger than myself. It is art that helps tell a story, and it helps bring people together to a place where they can laugh together or cry together or be filled with whatever emotion it is that a show is trying to bring out of us. That’s what made me realize I wanted to do this for a living.”
She came to UMD in 2021 to pursue a further college degree as a “non-traditional” student, being older than the typical student coming from high school.
“Adjusting to being a full -time student again has been a challenge, especially doing it in my thirties. I had become used to working a 9 to 5, having free time, and a disposable income. It’s funny too, sometimes I forget that I am a decade older than many of the students and much closer in age with some of the professors here; it sometimes feels like I exist in a sort of liminal space between the two worlds.”
Lisa has had a variety of assignments in the UMD theatre department. She explained, “I have been an assistant scenic designer on School for Lies, Main Street, and Singing in the Rain. I did props for Silent Sky, was the scenic charge artist for Twelfth Night, and I did lighting design for a piece in last year's dance production Dancing Home. I also work in UMD’s scene shop and have done work on most of UMD’s productions during my time here, whether it’s building, painting, or installing scenic elements.”
A cake built for UMD’s Singing in the Rain, by Cody Burgoon, assistant technical director, painted and decorated by Lisa Scott. Director Matthew Wagner
“It was such a fun process to be a part of Singing in the Rain this past spring. There were so many talented people working to bring it all together. It was rewarding seeing it evolve from start to finish. UMD Associate Professor Curtis Phillips designed the architecture, and I helped develop the individual locations of the scenes, alongside Sheridan Cornett.”
She added, “It has been helpful to work as assistant designer with Curtis Phillips and see his design process as I am getting to know myself as a designer and figuring out what my own personal process is.”
Besides her work at UMD, she has also helped with some scene projects at the Duluth Playhouse. “I have worked the past few summers picking up hours at the Playhouse doing scenic painting and learning various techniques from Hannah Baldus, the resident scenic artist there. This summer, I helped with Newsies Jr, Kinky Boots, Addams Family, and most recently Misery at the Lab.”
Lisa added, “Hannah Baldus, the scenic charge artist at the Playhouse, has been a strong mentor to me when it comes to scenic painting. She has taught me a lot, especially when it comes to trusting myself and the process.”
Sense and Sensibility
UMD’s Sense and Sensibility is the first show Lisa has designed herself.
For this show, she explained, “I went a more abstract route with my design, choosing to let the actors take up the space more than any architectural elements.”
“In my interpretation of the script, there is a lot to be said about propriety and the versions of ourselves that we show to society, which are often not our genuine selves” she said. “The lives of the main characters are uprooted, and chaos ensues. I wanted to bring this feeling of chaos in such a rigid society into my design and find a way to metaphorically represent this idea of stifling our true selves for what we think society wants us to be.”
“For my design, I wanted the actors to be the main focus. It is a quick paced show with a lot of location changes, and we wanted to utilize as many entrance and exit points as possible, having the actors fly in and out of the space, right past the audience. I think this brings some fun energy to the already hilarious show.”
Of her design she noted, “The stage is decorated with empty frames thrown about in a topsy-turvy way, like the identities of the characters who were caught up in this whirlwind of change that they suddenly have no control over.”
Sense and Sensibility will be performed in UMD’s black box Dudley Experimental Theater space. A black box theater is a flexible performance space, well-suited to productions with more limited sets and technical requirements. They provide a more intimate, acting-focused experience.
Explaining the impacts of designing this show in a black box setting, Lisa said,
“Designing in a black box theatre is a lot of fun because of the inherent intimacy of that small of a small space, but it also brings a long a lot of challenges.
The sight lines from the audience’s perspective vary quite a bit, so you have to be intentional with the design and what people are going to be looking at. I wanted design elements off to the side or floating above the actors. This gets very tricky because the rigging that would be available on the Mainstage doesn’t exist in this space.”
Jenna Soleo-Shanks, UMD theatre department assistant professor and director of Sense and Sensibility, said, “Lisa is a wonderful collaborator. She really got the world of the play and the tone I wanted to set for our audience, and I was so impressed with her imaginative choices to bring that world to life. She created a dynamic and beautiful environment for the actors to play in.”
Lisa noted, “There is a feeling of community and acceptance within the world of theatre that I have not experienced anywhere else in the professional world,” she said. “Collaboration is a buzzword many jobs I’ve had in the past like to use but it truly is the backbone of theatre.”
Sense and Sensibility
Written by Kate Hamill
Based on the novel by Jane Austen
UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center
Dudley Experimental Theatre
Nov 3rd, 4th | 7:30 PM
Nov 5th | 2:00 PM (ASL Performance)
Nov 8th, 9th, 10th | 7:30 PM
Nov 11th | 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM
Tickets and Information:
General admission seating
Online at: tickets.umn.edu