Today I had lunch with a Tony Award winning set designer.

Just another day in the life of an intern. Eugene Lee is the resident set designer here at Trinity Rep. He’s also the resident set designer for Saturday Night Live and won a Tony for designing a little Broadway show called Wicked. He and his wife graciously hosted all of the interns today for lunch, and we got to hear about his career and see his studio. There was so much to take away from the couple of hours spent in the company of his brilliance, and I wanted to share some of that with you:

Just do the work.

I was struck by Eugene’s simple, focused approach to every project. He loves designing so much that he’ll build an intricate set model before he has even signed a contract- just to play, just to explore. His wife told us at lunch that Eugene isn’t phased by where the project is, or who it’s for. He could be designing anything from a regional theatre production to a brand new up and coming project headed for Broadway. It’s the same process, and he throws himself into the work that he has built a life around. “I do it the way I’ve always done it,” he says. It’s so simple that it’s remarkable.

“It’s all good.”

Eugene said this several times to us, about the theatre world. A simple phrase, but what got me was that his face lit up every time he said it. He loves this world, and he seemed excited for us twenty-something interns as we start our careers. It’s common knowledge that he is an accomplished designer, but the fact that he has two Tony Awards to his name never came up. Because that’s not why we do this, is it? Eugene has a lot to be proud of, but he took the most joy from sharing stories from the array of projects he has worked on. He just LOVES this. He loves the work. And really, at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

A life in the theatre is not always easy, but the artists I would define as successful are the ones who love what they do. They harness this passion and use it to develop a skill set that allows them to grow and keep doing what they do.


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