Jathan Innerarity, originally from Lindale, Texas, has joined Lycoming College as visiting assistant professor of theater and scenic and lighting designer and technical director. He received his bachelor's degree in scenic design from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, and most recently received his master's degree in scenic design and technical production from the University of Memphis in Tennessee. He designed and taught while earning his master's degree, and also designed professionally for the Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis and the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Maria, Calif.
Innerarity said that SFA allowed him to study art as well as theater while earning his degree and that inspired his vision and way of working.
"This dual path of study helped me come to the understanding that as a scenic designer, everything that I design for the stage is a sculpture that is literally viewed from all sides," he said. "I do not simply design backgrounds for the actors to play in front of, but design and create environments in which they interact. Theatre is alive, if you will; it breathes, grows, and interacts. The performers, stage, lighting, costumes and the audience all form this living breathing piece of art."
The Sun-Gazette recently had the opportunity to ask Innerarity about his scenic design background and moving to the Williamsport area.
KRISTA STORM: When did you become interested in theatre?
JATHAN INNERARITY: My father was a director, designer and theater educator, so my love of theater began rather early in life.
KS: How did you end up here in central Pa.?
JI: Lycoming College kept making it to the top of the list. The area is beautiful, the students excited to be here and the professors are dedicated to the students and to academia.
KS: What do you like about designing?
JI: I love designing, building and sculpting. Designing a show is lending a hand in a collaborative living sculpture. Where a fine artist may spend months or even years working on a piece meant to last a lifetime, we theater artists spend months creating something that is temporary - meaning that we only have a moment to capture, engage, entertain and hopefully teach our audience. After the show closes, it goes away and another show goes up.
KS: Is there a show you have always wanted to design?
JI: If I had to choose only one it would be "Jet de Sang," or more commonly known as "Spurt of Blood." Written by theater theorist Antonin Artaud in 1925, it is a vivid surrealist piece that in only three short pages captures a world of creativity.
KS: Do you have a favorite playwright, era or style?
JI: As a designer they tell you not to limit yourself by having a favorite, but being human I naturally do. I love the "isms." The world of non-realism has a special place in my heart. As man tried to explain the horrors of both world wars, he found that realism could not logically explain the illogical events; the only explanations could be found by moving completely away from the realism norm and into worlds based on imagination and creativity.
KS: What inspires your designs?
JI: It is the dialogue that influences me the most. Plays are meant to be seen and heard, not read, so the first thing I do is Sharpie over all of the stage directions. The spoken lines of the play will give me the clues I need to design the world, to find the moments I need to light.
KS: What is your favorite part of the process?
JI: As a scenic designer I love building a 1/4" or 1/8" scale model of the show. It combines craft and artistry together with every show being a different and unique process of discovering how to create, in scale, the world I have helped design. It also serves a practical purpose as I show it in the early stages of the rehearsal process to both the cast and the crew that will build the show. It allows us to see a complete picture of our completed set before a single board has been cut.
KS: What is the best experience you have had as a designer?
JI: I would have to say that my scenic design of "Bat Boy: The Musical" would rank up there as the best. I was working with a wonderful director, Copeland Woodruff, who at the time was bouncing between teaching at Juilliard and Memphis, and a very talented lighting designer and close friend, Vince Bassile. The collaboration, the open discussions between us, and the creativity of a very talented cast allowed the production to flow, grow and evolve into pure collaborative artistry.
KS: What are you looking forward to at Lycoming College?
JI: We have a very balanced season that will allow me as a designer a chance to explore, create and educate.
The Epic theater of Brecht followed by a modern social movement production and ending with a classic, light-hearted but yet thought provoking piece. Every show is unique and challenging in its own way, but then that is the excitement.
KS: If you could work with anyone, with whom would you like to work?
JI: Joe Mielziner for a start; his level of artistry is extraordinary. I would love to have worked with Artaud, but that might have entailed being locked in a 1920s home for the insane with him, and elctro-shock therapy just doesn't sound pleasant.
To see examples of Innerarity's work, visit his website at jathaninnerarity.com.