Designer Martin Flynn – Nothern California’s best kept secret.

martin flynnAssistant Professor of Theater Arts (Technical Theater) at Cosumnes River College.  CA. Martin is also the resident Scenic Designer for Bay Area Children's Theatre (B.A.C.T.). He has designed scenery for over 100 theatrical productions, mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Martin has an M.F.A. in Dramatic Arts- Scenic Design from the University of California at Davis, a Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University, and an A.A.S. in Architectural Engineering Technology from the State University of New York at Alfred.

B.I.T.N. asks every Designer the same 6 questions in the Design Forum.  I know, I know, seems pretty lazy on our part, but each designer is unique, and their individual take on the same subject can prove a fascinating peek into the mind of an artist.

Plus, it’s our blog …

Q1 – How and when did you first get interested in designing for theatre?

I first became interested in designing for theatre when I was a kid. My parents would bring us to plays and other live performance, and I used to think it  would be fun to design the scenery. I didn’t actually start designing fro theatre until I moved to California as an adult to raise my son. I decided to not pursue an architecture job and give theatre a try instead.

Q2 – Who and or what are some of your inspirations?

For day to day inspiration, I need look no further than my son. He is probably the reason why I now love designing children’s shows so much. As far as scenic design inspirations, I have to mention John Iacovelli, my advisor from grad school and Douglas Schmidt, a San Francisco based scenic designer. Both John and Douglas have had astounding careers (and are still going strong) in scenic design and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from them.

Q3 – When you design for the stage, what is your thought process?

I start by reading the script, understanding the specifics of the venue, doing the basic research of understanding the time, setting, and tone of the piece, and then meet with the director. Then I start building my ideas into sketches using tracing paper and pens and pencils. Once I get the bones of it working I scan the layers into the computer and start developing them with AutoCAD and Photoshop. I produce finished color renderings, drafted technical drawings, and hand-built scale models for use in the scene shop and rehearsal rooms.

Q4 – What, if anything, do you think technology brings to the worlds of theatre design?

Technology is a continually evolving aspect of designing for theatre. In my design studio, although I start my process by hand on paper, I have developed a design process which incorporates technology. In scene shops, C&C machines and 3-d printers are transforming the way sets and props can be built and “printed”. On an even larger scale, technology constantly changes the world around us, and influences the frame through which we view the world. In a nutshell, design and technology are like two snakes intertwined around each other, moving forward together. 

Q5 – What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?

My advice would be to not give up if you really love it. Also, when you are just starting out it is important to say yes to every opportunity which comes your way. In the design business, one opportunity leads to another and it is hard to break in if you say “no” too much, thinking that you are going to wait for a better gig to come along. Also, try to learn from your mistakes. No one is perfect, and you are going to receive plenty of criticism for your work. It is best to develop a thick skin, but at the same keep trying to improve in your areas of weakness.

Q6 – What else do have to say? 

Draw something every day.






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