Brett J. Banakis, Set And Production Designer

Home base: Brooklyn, NY

Current project(s): Designing scenery for a production of Titus Andronicus at the Anspacher Theatre for the PublicLAB Shakespeare Series; associate set design for Christine Jones on a production of Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera.

Most notable achievements: Last summer, I designed a project called The Little Death: Vol. 1 by Matt Marks at the Incubator Arts Project at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre. A few years ago, I designed scenery and lights for the world premiere of Junk: A Rock Opera by Swedish band Brainpool.

When I started in this industry: I began in 2004 as an assistant set and lighting designer for a production of Paint Your Wagon at the Geffen Playhouse. I cut my teeth as a sort of resident assistant there for several years until I decided to move to New York and go to grad school at NYU.

How I got into this industry: When I was a kid, I had a giant tub of Legos that I would play with endlessly...scouring the pool of plastic bits until I would find the exact right pieces to make up worlds that were in my mind. One day, someone told me that if I played my cards right, I could do that for a career.

Influences: Paul Steinberg, Christine Jones, Andrew Lieberman, Michael Sexton, John Conklin, Neil Jampolis, Derek McLane, Jane Reisman, John Iacovelli, John Lambie, Glen Smeltzer, to name a few.

Worst advice I’ve ever heard: About a curved-wall model piece: “Build the wall flat, with all of the details and moldings and profiles, then curve it.”

Best advice I’ve ever heard: “Don’t think about it. Put it in the box. Glue it down.” —David Stein

Favorite thing about the industry: I like that I don’t know what I will be working on in six months, but I do know that it will be exciting.

Favorite design/programming/technical trick: Paul Steinberg once told me, while examining one of his scale models, a stage space filled with 40+ metal desks arranged methodically in rows, in a sigh of relief, “Everything looks better in multiples.”

Plans for the future: I only hope that I can keep doing what I am doing and creating exciting work.

Other interests/side gigs: I grew up a musician, and I intend to remain one as long as I am able. I play trombone, guitar, and a little piano.

Awards/Honors: I recently had the honor of presenting a design for the Philip Glass/Allen Ginsberg opera Hydrogen Jukebox at Opera Conference 2011 in Boston, hosted by OPERA America, as part of the Robert L. B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase; Honorable Mention, IESNYC “Liminal Luminosity” Lighting Design Competition, 2010.

Memberships: United Scenic Artists Local 829


Other 2011 Young Designers To Watch