Impact on Individuals
James Kronzer, Set Designer
24 March, 2016
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (an A&E Sustaining Grant recipient) is known not only for outstanding performances of a wide range of plays and musicals, but also for its remarkable staging and set designs. For the 2015-16 season, The Rep reached out to nationally renowned set designer, James Kronzer, to design two very different plays: All the Way, about President Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act, and Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel to Peter Pan.
Kronzer first discovered theater and set design as a teenager. “I remember walking into the theater in my high school and seeing a set being constructed and I was fascinated by the process. One of the other students was painting a backdrop and that was my first moment when I thought, ‘oh, this is an interesting place.’”
After Kronzer earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in acting, he pursued a certificate in Scenic Art at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. “I thought I was going to be a scenic artist, and I went to school in London for that. While I was there I started assisting designers in England, and that’s where I transitioned into designing. I never really went to school for design. It was a lot of observation, looking, seeing people’s work who I liked and admired. Over the years I just kind of created my own style.”
Now, over two decades later, Kronzer is an award-winning set designer with a long and impressive resume of work including Glory Days on Broadway, Opus and Under the Bridge Off-Broadway and regional projects across the country. His numerous national tours include The Wizard of Oz and Seussical the Musical. He has designed productions for Norwegian Cruise Lines as well as a new musical for Disney Cruise Lines, Twice Charmed. His work for television includes over 70 comedy specials including shows featuring Chelsea Peretti, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Nealon, Marc Maron and Craig Ferguson.
While Kronzer built his career backstage instead of on it, his early years studying acting help him as a set designer. “I care deeply how an actor interacts with the space that I create. A designer is manipulating not only the actors, but also the director and the production in that they are dictating where you go. So, I always try to create spaces that are very actor friendly and I think that comes down to my experiences as an actor. I want to make sure that nothing I’m doing takes an actor out of telling that story.”
On his philosophy of set design, Kronzer feels that less is more. “I’m a big fan and a believer in what theater does best and what audiences enjoy – they love filling in the blanks,” he explains. “In other words, I don’t think you have to spoon-feed an audience all the information and all the details. So if you give them a chair on the floor, they know they’re in room and then you start to play the scene out and they start to fill in the blanks. And I find that very exciting.”
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is an Arts and Education Council Sustaining Grant recipient. For more information visit repstl.org. To learn more about James Kronzer visit jameskronzer.com.