Nate Tomsheck takes the stuff of dreams and makes it tangible. As technical director
and assistant professor in the Theatre Arts Department, he designs and builds the
sets and scenery used in the college’s productions.
Whether it’s the nitty-gritty New York slums of “Little Shop of Horrors” or the
haunting interior of a Russian country home of “The Cherry Orchard,” he manages
to create the perfect environment where the play’s characters can come to life.
Tomsheck, who holds a master of fine arts degree in technical design and production
from the Yale School of Drama, says finding inspiration for his work can be simple
– or not.
“In the process of set design, the first thing you do is read the script, then
you read it again and then you read it again,” he says. “Once you have a firm understanding
of the pieces that make up the play, then you start asking yourself questions –
what are the director’s thoughts on the environment of the play, what are the needs
of actors, what are the needs of the other designers – and you take all of these
components and you start filtering it down into what the design wants to be.”
Occasionally it is based on a strong feeling.
“It could be a painting that really speaks to me, but sometimes it’s not that
easy,” he says. “Sometimes you really have to research and dig and read and learn
as much about the time period or the reasons the playwright wrote the play in order
to find out what the design wants to be.”
Tomsheck didn’t originally go into theater to be a designer – in fact, he never
planned to study theater at all.
“I did a little bit of drama in high school,” he said. “Then I went to small liberal
arts college, where my initial thought was to study international business. I needed
an elective that first semester. My advisor noticed that I had done some extracurricular
work in theater during high school, so she stuck me in an acting class.”
It didn’t take long for the young student to realize he was where he was supposed
“I figured out that I wasn’t really all that interested in pursuing business because
it didn’t keep my interest,” he said. “From that first acting class, that was where
I was the happiest.”
At college, he pursued both acting and technical theater, which included an “amalgamation
of tech and design.
“But when it came time to apply for graduate school, there was a fine line at
most of the programs between tech and design. At Yale, the tech program really
fit my skill set more so than the design, so that’s where I went.”
His foray into sets and scenery didn’t really start until he came to LaGrange.
“Because we have a smaller program here, it was an opportunity to do both,” he
says. “Someone who does both may have more success designing with constraints because
they know the limitations and they can work with them rather than fight against
them. I’ve taken several art classes just to bolster that side of myself so I’m
not designing in a vacuum.”
Tomsheck has been teaching stagecraft, a course on the theoretical and working
knowledge of technical theater, since his first semester at LaGrange seven years
“That means I’ve taught it 14 times, so I’m getting pretty good at it,” he says
with a grin.
One of his favorite things is having students who aren’t theater majors in his
“They get to see and understand that theater goes so far beyond acting,”
he says. “I love teaching that class because the students walk away and say, ‘Wow,
I had no idea that so much goes into a show, like construction, engineering and
He also reminds them that they are learning practical skills that will last them
“I say that someday they will be wanting to buy a house, and someday they will
be wanting to know how to fix things around that house. You can actually learn
a lot from stagecraft because it also applies to so much that we do in our own