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Interview Series: Mishelle Cuttler & Jamie Sweeney

Updated: Mar 25, 2019


As a new feature on the ADC website, we are presenting a series of Q&A interviews between designers about various aspects of their experiences in the sector. Our first pairing are Vancouver designers Mishelle Cuttler (www.mishellecuttler.com) and Jamie Sweeney.


Mishelle: What non-technical/design skill do you wish you had learned in school?


Jamie: I feel that my schooling did well to support who I am as a designer. I was in a position where, even in my performance studies, I was able to explore how I designed. I wish, however, that my schooling went further and helped me expand that understanding of myself, through critique and theory, both of which my design courses lacked.

Mishelle: Who do you feel is your closest ally when working on a show?


Jamie: Other designers. In my experience, they have always been willing to talk through a problem without trying to solve it for me. It allows for a solution to come out of conversation about the concept, whether we end up talking about mine or their own.


Mishelle: What’s your favourite part of the tech process?

Jamie: The moment just before it all comes together when you are seeing the thoughts in your head manifesting in front of you. The first time it happened I knew I wanted to keep designing.


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Jamie: What was the most valuable lesson you have learnt while working as a designer outside of an institution?


Mishelle: Theatre Design is all about communication. Learning how to communicate well with directors, technicians, and other designers is the most valuable skill to develop.


Jamie: Have you noticed any difference in the design communities between Vancouver and New York?


Mishelle: Because I was in school when I lived in New York, I didn’t get the chance to design professionally there. From what I observed, the big difference is that New York has the opportunity for huge scale, for-profit theatre, but not a lot of mid-level non profit stuff like we have in Canada. The lack of public funding in the US makes the overall theatre ecology a lot different, and anything that isn’t commercial tends to have very little money attached to it.


Jamie: What are a couple things you would want other designers or theatre practitioners to know about your discipline to better support you and fellow sound designers?


Mishelle: The big issues for sound designers are the distinction between sound design and composition, and the lack of understanding around music rights in general. In terms of the other designers, I’d love for us all to feel comfortable talking and asking questions and strategizing together! Every team is different, but my favourite shows always involve a lot of collaboration with the entire design team.

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