Interview with Cory Sincennes

Feb 03, 2011

How and why did you get involved in Design?
I actually started my career in Architecture. While completing my undergrad, I realized that it wasn’t the right path for me. I did complete my undergraduate degree, but at the same time, I began working in the Ottawa theatre community. Theatre had always been a part of my life, but it was not until after my first degree that I realized you could make a living designing for the theatre. I was hooked and many years later I still do what I love.
Briefly describe your set and lighting design process.
My design process begins with reading the script many times, looking for different clues, meanings, as well as technical requirements. I then use my initial ideas to begin a dialogue with the director and other designers. Some shows require a lot of research, which often informs the direct look of the finished show. I try to collect as much information – written and visual – as I can; anything that seems relevant. I then begin sifting through all this information trying to make sense of it all. Once I have a concrete idea, I begin to translate that into technical drawings, as well as drawings used to communicate my ideas to the fellow artists I work with. Lighting design comes from this same process but is also greatly informed by the pictures that are created on stage. I always get the most ideas from watching and participating in the rehearsal process. However every show is different and presents its own unique challenges. The design process is like a puzzle that you have to try to solve.
How true is your final design to the ideas you have immediately after reading the play?
The final design is often quite true to my initial concept. However, it is often the final look that changes completely or is altered. Often, resources or time do not allow for certain ideas to be fully realized. Other times design elements are no longer needed. The design process is not finished until opening night – even this is not true on all accounts. You must allow for the design to remain fluid and open to change, however it is very important to always maintain the initial idea, and use it to help shape the design.
What is your relationship with the director, actors, playwright and other designers?
My relationship with the other artists is very dependent on the show, type of production and the artists themselves. I often have quite close relationships with the artists I work with. But you must allow for everyone to exercise their own process. My job requires communication with everyone involved in a production, so there must be a level of trust and respect that is developed. I am most often closest to the director and technical director. The designer is the link between the technical side and artist side of a production. Strong relationships take many years and experience to foster, but always result in great partnerships and artistic merit.
Describe a memorable, funny, or cringe-worthy experience as a set and/or lighting designer.
I was working on a large scale musical that was using many painted drops in the set design. The crew had just spent 3 months painting these drops, but upon hanging them in the theatre they soon realized we had a problem. The drops that we had ordered had not been fireproofed. It was an error on the company by we ordered them from. So we had to fireproof in the theatre. The fire-retardant was sprayed all over the drops. Not only did the paint begin to run, but large sections of the painting began to fall off. The painters then had to spend a few overnight shifts touching up and repairing the damage, but they managed to fix it all.  I will never forget the sound of dry paint falling 40 feet and shattering on the floor.
 What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I almost became a veterinarian. I even worked at a clinic in preparation for my career. However at the last minute I was accepted in Architecture and chose that path.
Is there a style that defines your work or a signature – something that invariably shows up?
I don’t know if my work has a distinct style yet. For me, my design aesthetic is definitely informed by bold color and shapes. I like to play with the emotional powers that color can have on an audience. I am also quite drawn to clean lines, which you could say is a modern aesthetic. As well, I’m interested in creating more than just a set design on the stage. I like to create an environment or world in which everyone can experience the story. I like to take the audience into the story as soon as they enter the theatre. It’s what makes live theatre special.
Who or what are your biggest creative influences?
I am most influenced by the fine arts and contemporary art. I love going to galleries and museums to see what other artists are creating. I am also inspired by the careers of many other theatre designers such as: Dany Lyne, Micheal Levine, Klaus Gruenberg and the whole German theatre scene.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest attribute a designer can have?
Strong listening skills.
Finish these sentences:
Set design is…the architecture of moving images.
Lighting Design is…focus and shadow.