#74 Luke Cantarella

It’s episode #74 and we’re sitting down with Set Designer Luke Cantarella. Luke’s designs run the gamut from musicals to plays, opera to exhibitions, and an emerging field called Design Anthropology, where design is used to shed light on social and societally issues through exhibits or interactive experiences. One such project, entitled ‘214 Sq Ft,’ involved designing a replica motel room meant to reflect the living conditions of low income families in Orange County and the transient spaces that often become their permanent residencies. Cory and Luke also chat about designing larger than life musicals like ‘Follies’ for Repertory of St Louis and ‘All Shook Up’ at The Muny. Other topics include Luke’s eye-opening experience of designing projections only for Goodspeed’s current production of ‘Rags,’ how he totally changed his design process only a couple years ago, and what he tries to impart on his students at Pace University. And finally, they discuss something every designer can relate to, ‘sad designer face.’ But don’t be 🙁 be 🙂 because it’s a brand new episode!

Luke Cantarella has designed over one hundred productions including work for the theater, opera, dance, film, television and commercial design. Theatre credits include shows with The MUNY, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Atlantic Theater Company, American Repertory Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Yale Rep, Seattle Rep, Asolo Rep, Prince Music Theater, Northlight Theater, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Rozentheater (Amsterdam), Cleveland Playhouse, Lyric Theater of Oklahoma, Berkshire Theater Festival, TheaterWorks, Barrington Stage Company, Adirondack Theater Festival, CITY Theater, HERE, Synapse Productions, Theaterworks USA, New World Stages, and many others. He has designed operas for Wolftrap, Curtis, Peabody and the New England Conservatory of Music. He also designed Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man playing in New York, Las Vegas, and Paris and served as the associate designer for the Broadway production of Dracula, designed by Heidi Ettinger.

Film and television credits include Art Directing the Emmy-Award winning series Damages (season 2), as well as work on Julie & Julia, The Accidental Husband, Synecdoche, NY, State of Play, and Pink Panther 2. With his colleague Adrian Jones, he has designed display advertising for Grand Marnier/LVMH, TekServe and Smithson of Bond Street.

Luke’s creative work often extends beyond the theater. He works extenstively in the field of design anthropology with his collaborators Christine Hegel and George Marcus. Their Productive Encounters projects have included include 214 Sq. Ft., a mobile motel room developed in coordination with Project Hope Alliance, Trade is Sublime, a three-channel video installation at the World Trade Organization, and their current project, Yes, We’re Openan fictional storefront that examines gentrification in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Luke has led workshops in design thinking for anthropologists at the University of California-Irvine, Art Center College of Design (Pasadena) and the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He received his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama in 2000. He completed his undergraduate work at Northwestern University, where he earned a B.S. in Speech in 1994.

Luke joined the faculty at Pace in the fall of 2012 where he is currently the an associate professor of Design. Prior to Pace, Luke ran the M.F.A. program in Set Design at the University of California-Irvine. He has a lovely daughter named Tosca and a very talented wife, Christine Hegel, a legal and economic anthropologist who teaches at Western Connecticut State University