As a prospective graduate student, Sara Brown (MFA: Scene Design ’05) attended a group interview event where several school representatives were on hand to answer questions. However, it was a question that was asked that day, rather than answered, that had the biggest impact of all.
“Tom Bloom was the only one of the school representatives who asked me what I was interested in,” Brown said, “That was a great precursor to my time at UVa in that it was a smaller program in set design, but it was always in tune with what I needed, as a student. So it was able to support my interests in architecture and visual arts and offer a number of pathways to me.”
Those interests, and that UVa experience, helped Brown launch a highly successful theatre design career that has seen her work grace the stages of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Boston’s American Repertory Theatre, New York’s The Kitchen performance space, and more. Her experience in the Drama Department also inspired her to launch an impressive academic career of her own as the Director of Design for Music and Theater Arts at MIT.
Her MIT experience, Brown said, reminds her in many ways of what she loved most about UVa. “MIT is another school that is not necessarily known for the arts but that has a very vibrant and growing arts presence. It is such a valuable experience to be surrounded not only by incredible theatre makers and artists, but also by incredible students who may go on to be great doctors or lawyers or writers or engineers. I think that is an amazing privilege.”
Brown is also working to give students another privilege she enjoyed at UVa. “I had incredible access to remarkable teachers who were always available and present, and one of the things I appreciated most, about Tom and all the teachers I had at UVa, was that they were interested in pulling the best work from you without trying to make you the kind of artist they were. That is really rare, and it has influenced me not just to find my own voice as a designer, but also as a teacher. I try to channel that every day, to be truly curious about my students’ work, to ask them questions and push them further while trying to mine what is already there, as opposed to trying to influence them from the outside.”