What began as a stage crew job at Village Theatre in Issaquah blossomed into a freelance career.

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Jenny Littlefield

What do you do? I’m a freelance theatrical set designer. I essentially get to read a script and, along with the director, dream up a design for the scenery that best helps tell the story.

How did you get started in that field? I started as stage crew for a summer stock production at Village Theatre in Issaquah when I was in high school. Soon after, I landed my first job working in their box office. I ended up working for Village for 10 years, and while I always worked front of house, I knew I wanted to be a part of creating the magic on stage. So, I started taking art classes at the local community college, as well as reaching out to set designers in Seattle and offering to assist them. Much of my design training has been thanks to the mentorship of these designers.

What’s a typical day like? Designers generally will be working on several shows at any given time, at various stages in the process. So, I may have a meeting with a director to discuss design concept for one play, then head back to my studio to work on a scale model of a design about to be built, and then go help paint another set that’s already been built. It takes a lot of self-discipline (and coffee) to keep on track. Luckily, many of the other theater artists I collaborate with are friends, so even on the most challenging days, I’m having a blast and doing what I love with people I admire.

What surprises people about what you do? When I tell people I do theater, they usually ask if I’m an actress or costume designer. While there are many amazing female set designers in Seattle, it’s still generally a male-dominated vocation. There’s a big shift happening, though. Many of the productions I worked on in 2017, especially, were with technical and carpentry roles filled by women.

What’s the best part of the job? The best part of the job is getting to see what other people do with these designs you’ve created. How are they using them to tell their story? Being that theater is all about shared experiences (with the artists and the audience), a great set design helps tell the story and seems to melt away — getting out of the way and making those shared experiences more possible.

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