Laura Jellinek, Set Designer
Home base: Brooklyn, NY
Current project(s): I’m about to go into rehearsal on a piece with director Daniel Fish, based on David Foster Wallace’s work (primarily short stories from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men). It goes up in October at the University of Rochester, and we’ll be developing the script throughout the rehearsal process. I’m also working on a production of Les Mamelles de Tirésias with director Emma Griffin at Juilliard, which goes up in December.
Most notable achievements: I’ve been very lucky to have worked with a number of amazing collaborators and companies since finishing graduate school. Some projects that stand out include collaborating with Christopher Wheeldon on a new piece, Ghosts, at the San Francisco Ballet, working with David Herskovits and Target Margin Theatre on The Really Big Once, designing Buddy Cop 2 with The Debate Society, and designing a production of Così Fan Tutte with opera director Sam Helfrich.
When I started in this industry: I started designing scenery in high school, where I was lucky to have a theatre program that encouraged student designers and technicians. I continued to design through college and moved to New York in 2004. Before going to graduate school at NYU, I worked as an assistant and carpenter while designing small plays, and since graduating in 2009, I’ve been working primarily as a designer.
How I got into this industry: It was in college that I started to consider set design as a profession. While I didn’t major in theatre, I did form a sort of apprenticeship with Michael McGarty, who runs the design program at Brown University, and under his guidance, I decided to move to New York and try it out. He helped me get work as a carpenter at the Public, and it was there that I saw what could be in my future if I went for it with set design, so I went to NYU for graduate school and have been working since graduating.
Influences: Andrew Lieberman, Paul Steinberg, and Christine Jones—my set design teachers at NYU—as well as designers Constance Hoffman and Michael McGarty. I also think my background in math and classical music, both of which I studied seriously through college, has been important when it comes to discipline and structure.
Worst advice I’ve ever heard: “When you get out of school, say yes to everything,” from many people.
Best advice I’ve ever heard: In preparing for my piece at the SF Ballet, Jane Cox pointed out that there’s nothing wrong with saying to a shop, “I’ve never worked anywhere this large before, so I’ll probably have a lot of questions.” This was the opposite of the advice I’d gotten from a lot of other designers, and it served me very well.
favorite thing about the production industry: I love that I learn something new on every project I do.
Plans for the future: I hope to continue working on projects I like with people I like. Other plans: getting a dog, having kids, renovating a house myself.