Our very own Senior Producer, Robyn Henry sat down with legendary Creative Director + Designer, David Korins, to talk about a year of upheaval and the future of live entertainment. It’s a spectacular interview from the new TAIT Yearbook that you won’t want to miss.
A multi-award winner across theatre, music, interior design and more, there’s little in the creative world that David Korins hasn’t turned his hand to. Speaking to productionglue’s Robyn Henry, David reflects back on a career of collaboration, a year of upheaval and the future of live entertainment.
Robyn: Why don’t we go back a little in the time machine…
You and I have done theatre together for over 10 years, but how did you get interested in it in the first place, how did it start?
David: At school I was an athlete, musician and a performer, which I think have a lot in common, as they’re all about improvisation within a framework. I had a really bad audition experience as a performer and thought, well, I’m never going to do that again! But I really loved the artform and never wanted to give up on the idea of being a part of a community. My way-in was always the theatre. It’s the most accessible thing – people don’t normally grow up on film sets. When I went to college, I took a class which taught me a little bit about scenery, lighting, costume and sound design, and the professor took me under his wing. He told me about this magical place called Williamstown Theatre Festival, encouraging me to apply for an internship. It was there that I saw the full trajectory of what it was like to go from an intern to designer. I got to see every part of the craft, how you could apply narrative to creating environments, and I was totally hooked.
Robyn: You’ve worked in a lot of different mediums since then, too. How did you begin to move into other industries?
David: I wanted to learn and thought the way to do that was to try a lot of different things. So very quickly I started designing things like furniture and people’s window displays. And I got an understanding early on that it’s the same process, whether you’re designing a restaurant, a rock concert, a play or an event. I feel like I’ve always been able to acknowledge what I know and what I don’t know, so I question how I can make the best, deepest, most imaginative and dynamic collaborations – how can I cover my weaknesses and accentuate my strengths? I built my design business on the idea of collaboration, creating a team around me that could really build up.
Robyn: It’s interesting all of the different areas you’ve found success in. What inspires you creatively, and does it change depending on the medium you’re working in?
David: I’m inspired by stories and people. I think there’s also real power and strength in being multidisciplinary. People who I know who are a production designer for say, rock concerts – they need that next pop star, otherwise they dry up, or they need that playwright, or that next director. And I think that’s not really the way life works, it’s much more ebbing and flowing. People who build and fabricate in one lane, often try and solve the problem in one way, so I think there’s been real power in spreading out.
Robyn: For a multi disciplinarian – I know this is probably like me asking you to choose a favorite child – but do you have a favorite type of project that you like to work on? Or do you have a dream project?
David: Each one of the areas I work in feeds my soul in a different way. I love the fact that theatre is a complete edge to edge world, conjured from a blank space. I love that music is not tethered to reality – it’s a through-line directly to your heart. With film and television, you can do things that you can’t in a live event. You can zoom right in and show some intention with an eyeball, or create a massive cathartic revelation of space that you can’t do in a theatre. With a restaurant, you’re wrapping yourself in a 360° experience, with food – you can’t get a more nurturing kind of experience.
They all serve a different thing for me. If I had to pick just one I’d be really unhappy. But if we’re talking dream projects, it would be the opening ceremony of the Olympics. LA 2028?!
Robyn: You’ve received a lot of acclaim and awards for your work – which has meant the most to you? What do you see as your biggest achievement?