Lighting and sound designer WILLIAM K. D’EUGENIO (a 2017 Helen Hayes Award nominee for Outstanding Lighting Design on Theater Alliance's Word Becomes Flesh) brings his artistry and expertise to the Theater Alliance production of Complicite’s MNEMONIC, playing through April 9. This week’s Take Ten offers the inside scoop on a design career launched by a Starmite and inspired by dreams of Sara Bareilles.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
The first show I really remember seeing was Honk! in 2002 at Chicago’s Marriott Theatre. My Uncle Paul was playing Ugly (the duckling) and I remember being completely entranced by the magic of it all. I can still visualize a lot of the moments in that production, and I remember looking up at the tension wire grid, seeing all of the lights and just trying to figure out how they were creating this completely different world on the stage in front of me.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
My first involvement was onstage in Plainville Choral Society’s Youth Theatre production of Starmites, in which 8-year-old me played a Starmite. About 3 years after my big stage debut, I started to look backstage instead. By middle school I was trying to run things backstage while still being a star, and that led to some problems. I’ve mostly stuck to backstage ever since.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Of the many that I could pick, I think my overall favorite musical has to be Sunday in the Park with George, because at it’s core, it’s telling the story of what it means to be an artist. You have this character of George who is redefining convention by breaking down his world into components of color and light, matched with Sondheim who translated it into music, and as someone who works every day with all three of those mediums, it feels like Sondheim and Lapine wrote a masterpiece about me. They really wrote it about all of us, but it feels like it’s about me, and that’s the magic of theatre.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
I have been incredibly lucky in my career, and, to date, have never needed a job outside of our industry. I’m eternally grateful for how supportive my parents have always been with allowing me to pursue what I am passionate about, and also for the incredible mentors that showed up in my life at just the right moments, and opened the doors that led me here.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
While I can’t bring any specific moments to mind (probably blocked them out), I know that my mother, diligent chronologer that she is, did capture the majority of my youth theatre days on film. So at some point I’m going to have to ask my parents to lock all of those away for no one to ever find, because I’m sure it’s a gold mine.
To put it simply, the people. The creative process for this show has been unique because where in other processes you may feel a lack of creativity or ideas for solving complex problems, in this production there has been a surge of amazing ones. The energy and excitement in the room is palpable, and that’s the feeling you hope for on every project.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
Sara Bareilles. I think that most people know her for the handful of songs that have landed her on Top 40 Radio, and maybe for her work on Waitress, but she’s done so much more than that. Her work is sophisticated and moving, and spending an evening with her would be an opportunity to get to know the mind behind the music that has been a real source of inspiration for me.
8) What is your dream role/job?
The dream job is always having projects that put you in the room with talented, passionate people and result in work that means something to you. I’m incredibly lucky that I’m already on the precipice of that dream, having worked on many projects so far in my career that have been rewarding experiences. The next step for me is to keep doing more.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
Einstein on the Beach. I have been a huge fan of Robert Wilson’s work ever since I was introduced to him in school. He changed the way I thought about design, and I’m sure the photos and documentaries do not do the live performances justice.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
To the 8 year-old: The feeling of magic doesn’t go away. I can’t count the number of theatrical experiences where I’ve felt exactly like that 8 year-old again. To the graduating MFA: remember to do the type of theatre you love. Whatever that may be, that’s what you need to be working in. You’ll find your people and you’ll be ready to work.
WILLIAM K. D’EUGENIO is a Lighting and Sound Designer based out of Washington, D.C. Recent regional lighting credits include: Mnemonic, brownsville song (b-side for tray) and Word Becomes Flesh - Helen Hayes Nomination for Outstanding Lighting Design (Theater Alliance); yasiin bey’s (Mos Def) Farewell Tour, Jason Moran and Theaster Gates: Looks of a Lot, The 15th Annual Global Leadership Awards, Bud, Not Buddy [assoc. LD] (The Kennedy Center); JQA: A Theatrical Inquiry (American University, dir. Aaron Posner); American Hero (Rep Stage); The Hispanic Heritage Awards (assoc. LD, Hispanic Heritage Foundation); The Body of an American (assoc. LD, Theater J); and The Glass Menagerie (assoc. LD, Ford's Theatre). His work as Sound Designer and Composer has been heard for: The Other Place, Antigone Project, and Circle Mirror Transformation (Rep Stage), and Crónica De Una Muerte Anunciada (GALA Hispanic Theatre).