Following One's Own Path

by Michael Eddy

This month, in addition to other production areas like sound design and prop fabrication, we focus on costumes and costume crafts. We have three costume designers I had the great pleasure to speak with at USITT tell us a bit about their career paths and offer some advice for those starting out. I also had the privilege to speak with the five-time Tony-nominated sound designer, Dan Moses Schreier on his historically-based soundscape for The Iceman Cometh. Lisa Mulcahy spoke with Rainy Edwards, an early career costume designer and fabricator. Ross Jackson, a working Equity Stage Manager writes about choosing the right position in stage management. He finds it’s not about the job title; it’s about the role and the opportunity of a particular production. Also, the wonderfully talented Props Fabricator Zoë Morsette tells SD about some special props from her freelance career over the past 40+ years.

Reading the various stories in this month's Stage Directions, yet again shows that there is no one path into working in the theater. There is no one right template; no one entry door to a career in the theater. Perhaps that’s why mentorship is such an important part of our industry. Everyone has their own origin story; everyone has one, or more mentors that gave them the encouragement, guidance, or bit of wisdom to help them realize their own path in theater. Everyone started at a different place to end up walking through the stage door.

My path working in the theater ultimately led me to editing this magazine. In high school and college, I thought that I wanted to be a lighting designer. When I moved to NYC right after college, I took any kind of work that I could get in theater—as an electrician, a board op, assisting LDs off, off-Broadway, and doing shop prep. I got lucky while I was interning at Manhattan Theatre Club as an electrician. The board op for the first show didn’t come in one day, so I filled in. He never came back, so I got a paying gig. When the short internship was up, they took me on full-time. At the same time, I got electrics work, and assisting work at theaters in the Juilliard School. The connections that I made at MTC and Juilliard turned into getting an invitation to run the lighting for the TV section at The National Playwright’s Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in CT. Not only did I work my way up to the lighting design position at the O’Neill, I would meet an electrician in the theater program who would become my wife. I have gotten amazing guidance over the years from many mentors and met amazingly talented and kind people working in the theater. All of their stories have been different. Mine, if sometimes winding, would not be one I would change.

In speaking with Schreier about some of his advice to early career theater artists—”Do whatever you need to do to get into the theater; be open to all possibilities.” This is so true and we would love to know about the opportunities you took and where your theater path is leading.