IC Alumnus Receives Antonyo Award for Best Scenic Design

By Ashley Reedman, August 3, 2020
Lawrence E. Moten III ’12 is recognized for Best Scenic Design on “STEW.”

In June, Lawrence E. Moten III ’12 received an Antonyo Award for Best Scenic Design for the Off-Broadway production, "STEW." The inaugural Antonyo Awards were presented by Broadway Black, which celebrates Black artists on and off Broadway. The awards were announced  virtually to winners determined by a public vote. Two other IC alumni received nominations: Dharon Jones ’20 was nominated for Best Feature Actor in a Musical Broadway for his role in “West Side Story,” and Alan Edwards ’07 was nominated for Best Lighting Design for “The Hot Wing King.”

A theatrical production arts major at IC, Moten said that it was “amazing to be recognized” in the Antonyo Awards. “I love that the Antonyo Awards celebrates and showcases Black artistry. It’s meaningful to so many because it shouts out ‘we exist.’ More often than not, producers, directors, and institutions infer that they do not have Black creatives and storytellers because we are so few and far between. This award ceremony said that's not true. I think that this will create a greater demand and far more fertile ground for more Black set designers to find success in the landscape of New York City theatre.”

“What I love about my job is I get to get up and play pretend every day. More than this, I get to explore viewpoints and ways of life that are vastly different from the world that I live in. I get to practice active empathy every day. I think that has allowed me to expand my worldview far more than anything else.”

Lawrence E. Moten III ’12

Moten realized his passion for set design at 15 years old, when he says he spent more time reading books than playing video games or running around outside. He became fascinated when he learned that he could take what he envisioned in his head and make it real, and turn this skill into a vocation.

“There was something so magical about the places that writers could take you and the things you could experience in the infinite space of your imagination,” he said. “I decided at 15 that this was what I wanted to pursue. I wanted to be a part of the team that brought stories to life.”

Moten was brought onto the production of “STEW” by its director, Colette Robert, whom he admired as a collaborator and storyteller. “She asked me if I wanted to join her in telling this story with Page 73 productions in New York City, and I leapt at the opportunity,” said Moten. Designing began in early fall  2019, with stage construction and technical rehearsals completing before the show’s opening at Walkerspace Theater on Jan. 20. One of the crucial elements of production to Moten is establishing what he refers to as the “emotional plane” or “container” of the piece.

When I talk about the emotional plane or container of the piece, I am trying to find the overarching feeling of the text. What is it that the writer, or we the creative team, are trying to say about the piece, and how can I represent that larger idea visually? It takes a long time and a lot of research to figure that out. “STEW” is a naturalistic piece, so it was important to get the space right from a practical and dressing standpoint, and for the audience to emotionally understand the lives of the women in the play,” said Moten.

man with shadows

Lawrence E. Moten III ’12

When it comes to artistic style, Moten prefers abstraction. “Theatre is a collaborative art form. Not only for the performers, designers, technicians, and everyone else who makes the show, but it's collaborative with the audience as well. We ask you to join us on this 90-minute to two and a half-hour journey, and I find that the most satisfying of those journeys are the ones in which I do not give you everything in the set. We ask you to suspend your disbelief and add your own imagination to ours to make the show that much more impactful,” said Moten.

“What I love about my job is I get to get up and play pretend every day,” said Moten. “More than this, I get to explore viewpoints and ways of life that are vastly different from the world that I live in. I get to practice active empathy every day. I think that has allowed me to expand my worldview far more than anything else.”

The challenge of scene design, besides time and budgeting, Moten said, is trusting yourself through each project.

“You cannot give in to the idea of imposter syndrome,” he said. “You were hired for a reason, and trusting that you are going to do your job well is hard and takes a lot of practice. I still work on it to this day.”

What surprises Moten most about “theatremakers” such as himself is the willingness to continuously try and fail. “We are working in such a classic artform that it's easy to get stuck thinking about how theatre 'should' be. I am always surprised and feel blessed that my collaborators are willing to try new things. Our willingness to fail, and to pick up the pieces to find success, is a strength that always takes me by surprise,” said Moten.

“What I loved about the BFA program at IC was the insistence that we start at the bottom. You have to work at every level of production so that you understand what you are asking people to do for you as a designer.

Lawrence E. Moten III ’12

Moten credits Ithaca College for making him empathetic to the roles within scene design. It is a skill which he says made him a better designer and collaborator.

“What I loved about the BFA program at IC was the insistence that we start at the bottom. You have to work at every level of production so that you understand what you are asking people to do for you as a designer. My experiences in carpentry, paint, props, and costumes at IC made me a better scenic designer because I grew to understand how my choices will affect all of these departments, and I am therefore able to have effective, collaborative conversations with these artists,” said Moten.

Moten, who lectured in Scene Design at Princeton University, advises those interested in creative design to build themselves and learn constantly. “Work on something every day that will further your career, be it learning new technology or a program, applying for jobs, working on your website, or networking. No one else is going to do it for you or tell you to do it. The moment you feel you have nothing else to learn is the moment you should find something else to do.”

Moten would like to credit the production team for the success of “STEW”: Zora Howard (Writer), Colette Robert (Director), Dominique Fawn Hill (Costume Design), Stacey Derosier (Lighting Design), Avi Amon (Sound Design) Caitlyn Murphy (Props Design), Nikiya Mathis (Hair and Wig Design), Rico Frederick (Graphic Design), Fran Acuña-Almiron (Production Stage Manager), Ingrid Pierson (Assistant Stage Manager), Maggie Snell (Production Manager), Margaret Dunn and Stephanie Yankwitt (Casting), and Page 73 productions.