Ian McFarlane (he/they), the newest Resident Designer for the Drama Studies, Screen Studies, and Popular Culture Departments graciously let us in on a sneak peek of his newly acquired position at Mt. A. When I first walked into their office, I was immediately struck by the creativity that filled the walls. The dedication and creativity inspired by simply being in their office is awe-inspiring. There are handmade puppets, sketches, and a mini-library filled with books about theatre design. At first, I thought it would be hard not to be distracted by McFarlane’s talents strewn across the room. However, I was incorrect, as he painted quite an interesting picture of his job and what he is going to be doing here at Mt. A.
Describing his role in the theatre, McFarlane states, “There’s many facets to the [role]. I think my first and most visible job is that I am designing sets and costumes and props for all of the productions that are happening at the Motyer-Fancy Theatre (MFT). So everything that you see on stage when you come to see a show comes through this office.” When asked why it says “resident” in front of his title, McFarlane joked, “Because I live here!” Before continuing, “I think that term is used in various ways, for instance when I was working with puppets as a resident puppeteer I was literally living in the theatre. In this case, that is not what I am doing […] I am a person that is of this space. If there is any production that is coming through this space, I am a collaborator in that and I offer a very specific set of tools in theatre design that help make that show.”
McFarlane brings the atmosphere of a show to life. “I work with the directors, and their vision for the show, and help to turn it into a material reality,” he explains, their voice excited at the upcoming projects.
Speaking on the challenges of working on both upcoming fall-term shows at the MFT, The Drowning Girls, and Sweeney Todd, McFarlane says, “Design processes are overlapping… They feed off of each other, especially since I am working in the same theatre. I think that is one of the exciting things about the position, that as the Resident Designer I am working with one space, so I really get to understand the potential for the space, and this is a pretty extraordinary space.”
Being the Resident Designer at the MFT comes with many opportunities to share their passions with faculty and students alike. McFarlane is a multi-talented creator who has experience working with puppets, set builds, costumes, music and so much more. With all those incredible skills he brings so many learning opportunities for students and chances to grow from hands-on experience. They voice how, “The other facets of my job are very much student-focused. So there is a lot of work with students hands-on in building and crafting the set and the props and the costumes, and I am running two spaces in the theatre.”
When you think about it, working as a designer for the MFT is a method of world-building for every show. McFarlane’s closing words are an invitation for anyone interested in design to come and help out at the MFT for the upcoming shows: “Come by anytime! I am here, I am the resident. Anyone can drop by for a visit if they are interested in being in the productions or if they just want to know more about theatre in general. I am very much an open book about my process, and about where I’ve come from and how I got here.”