Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 16, 2011
Nicole Plaza, from Wantage, New Jersey, earned a B.A. in production design from SCAD Savannah in 2011.
Nicole Plaza originally entered the production design program
with a concentration in costume design, but after being assigned to a crew in the light booth for one show, she switched to lighting instead. "The program doesn't zero people into one specific track of learning," says Nicole. "When you come in, you work on every single crew and get a feel for everything, and that really makes people see what they love. If they'd put me on a costume crew immediately, I would have been happy and fine, but I never really would have known that I loved lighting."
Since coming to SCAD, Nicole has designed lighting for several shows, ranging from student-written dramas to large-scale performances like "Fahrenheit 451
," a production that involved more than 200 students and professors from nine departments, and was picked up for a professional circuit
in Washington, D.C. "I think it's incredible that we get to work on productions this large," says Nicole. "I know there are a lot of colleges that don't have theater spaces this nice and they're scrapping for lights just to put on whatever they can, while SCAD is giving us all of these resources to do what we love. To know that all of these productions were built by students is kind of amazing."
In the past four years, Nicole says lighting has become her life. In her time at SCAD, when she wasn't working on class assignments, she was usually in the Lucas Theatre
, designing lighting plots or building lighting cues with her crew. She says the rigorous hours are part of why the students in production design are so close. "The thing that really makes production design a special major is that we are a big family," says Nicole. "When a show gets behind, we all volunteer to come in and help, despite our already busy schedules. When someone gets sick or injured we all offer to make dinner or give car rides and help however we can. Our camaraderie is what helps many students make the decision to stay within our department - knowing they can have a place to come and have a good time doing what they love with people who have the same interests."
Like most of the other students in her major, Nicole has made time in her busy schedule to intern with a production design company. Last summer, she interned for PRG, Production Resource Group, in Las Vegas, where she worked with designers to create concert tour lighting packages for acts like Elton John, The Black Eyed Peas and Rihanna. With the disclaimer that she is "not really a gambling kind of person," Nicole says working on the Strip was an incredible experience. "While I was there, I got all these opportunities to be in the lighting booth or backstage for shows I wasn't even working on," says Nicole. "And all I had to do was ask. That's the thing that amazes me the most. I would just say, 'Hey, can I go see this? 'And they'd say, 'Yeah, I didn't know you wanted to do that. Go for it! I'll bring you.'"
After graduation, Nicole returned to PRG for another internship drafting plots for concert tours in Los Angeles. Nicole says the production design program has prepared her for just this kind of position. "We focus more on design, whereas a lot of other schools just look at the technical aspect," says Nicole. "So we're more prepared for professional design, instead of the technical hands-on only jobs."
Taking her lighting designs on the road with concert tours is exactly what Nicole wants to be doing. "I'm young and I won't have a family or anybody to keep me in one place for a while," she says. "So I'm taking those opportunities while I can."