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Alum stages career in set design

February 11, 2002

Andrew Lieberman ’93 thought college in the Northwest would be a nice change of scenery. It turned out to be a lot more than that. Or, rather, it turned out to be exactly that.

Lieberman, a Bethesda, Maryland, native who now lives in New York City, planned to study biology at Lewis & Clark. True, he had participated extensively in theatre in high school. But college, he figured, was about choosing a real career. Once he reached Lewis & Clark, though, his “real career” never had a chance.

“I signed up for theatre lab, basically a crew experience, for my first term,” says Lieberman. “And that was it. I just became a theatre major.”

Following his heart has served Lieberman well. A freelance set designer, he’s worked with luminaries of the profession in New York City, in Seattle’s vibrant theatre community, and elsewhere around the nation, including Portland.

But his successes started with some “bad” luck at Lewis & Clark. The theatre classes he wanted were offered on a rotating cycle and were not available when Lieberman wanted to take them. Instead, he enrolled in independent study with Associate Professor of Theatre John Gerth.

“I really thrived at Lewis & Clark,” says Lieberman. “John was a great teacher and a great motivator. I got to design a lot of big shows at the College. When I got out of school, people were very impressed that I’d done real work instead of just classroom work. That was hugely beneficial.”

Lieberman also credits his success to Lewis & Clark’s New York City study program, which focuses on theatre, art, and architecture. Each year, the College sends a handful of students and a professor to the Big Apple for three months of study and internships.

Lieberman interned with Loy Arcenas, a recognized leader in the world of set design. “I lucked out really,” says Lieberman. “Within two days of being in New York, I was on stage with Mary Louise Parker and all these other famous actors. It was really exciting, and it was a major part of my desire to become a set designer.”

Among his accomplishments has been an acclaimed production of The Merchant and the Pauper, which he designed in 1999 for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. It was directed by Mark Lamos, a respected opera director. Lieberman’s work impressed Lamos so much that they’ve since done two more productions together.

Closer to his alma mater, Lieberman has worked in Seattle theatres, including the highly esteemed Intiman, and he was invited to design Portland Center Stage’s production of Flesh and Blood, which was staged in the fall of 2001 to critical praise. Despite his professional acclaim, Lieberman admits that making a living as a freelance set designer is a challenging task. “It’s highly competitive,” he says. “Each year, there’s a new crop of students with degrees in set design, and there aren’t enough jobs to go around.”

While some set designers resort to television or film to making a living, Lieberman prefers to focus on theatre and opera. “Always to be doing interesting projects in the venues I want to work in,” he says, “that’s the goal.”

 

—by Melissa Steineger

 

 

Andrew Lieberman ’93 designs sets for an eclectic mix of theatrical genres. Pictured above (from top) are his creations for:  Penthesilea at New York’s Bard College in October 1999 (set and costumes);  L’Etoile at Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York, July 2001; and  Love’s Labor’s Lost at the June 2001 Shakespeare Santa Cruz festival.  L’Etoile opens at the New York City Opera in October 2002.

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