Interview with Joseph Spinogatti

UPDATE: the projection/scenic work of American Psycho has been nominated for a Tony! 

University of Pittsburgh undergrad Joseph Spinogatti discusses his exciting opportunities for practical theatre work and academic research assisting Broadway video designer Finn Ross on a theatrical production of American Psycho.

UPStages: You are in New York Working on Broadway! Can you tell us a little more about the project and your role?

I’m working as a Video Intern under Video Designer Finn Ross on American Psycho, the Broadway premiere of a new musical with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (SPRING AWAKENING) and libretto by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK). The show is based on the original novel written by Bret Easton Ellis.

Overall, my role is mostly an observational one due to union rules and regulations. During rehearsal, I’ve been doing things like timing numbers, play speed and Beats-Per-Minute calculations, time-coding recordings, and general administrative tasks to keep the video department organized and running smoothly. It has been a great experience getting to observe a professional Video Designer.

I’ve also been able to use my experience working on American Psycho as a research opportunity for my undergraduate thesis as part of my Bachelor of Philosophy Degree that looks at what video design can add to the elements of storytelling in theatre.

UPStages: How did this opportunity come about?

Since Video Design is still a new field within theatre design, Pitt does not yet have a dedicated Video Design faculty member. I have been looking for opportunities to learn from professional Video Designers. Finn did a Skype interview with our Introduction to Media Design in Performance Class, and after that, we talked about me working as an assistant on a show that he was designing.

UPStages: What’s been the most surprising aspect of this experience?

I don’t know that this aspect has been the most surprising, but one of the elements that I find interesting is how little the process of making theatre actually changes moving from UP Stages to a Broadway show; aside from the fact that there are a couple more people and a couple more dollars in the room, theatre is still theatre.

Working on American Psycho has also given me the chance to be exposed to the use of technologies that I’ve gotten the chance to see at Pitt but I haven’t really had the chance to work with or see in action, especially D3, a media server.

UPStages: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at Pitt that you’ve been able to apply to this job?

Collaboration and communication. American Psycho is an interesting beast because of how the music is composed. There are only four live musicians – the rest of it is programmed in Ableton Live (a digital music software).  The music is such a driving force in the show. The musicians play in addition to Ableton Live, and many of the lighting, video and sound cues are triggered in real time by the music. This has created an interesting tango between music, sound, lights, and video. Video, for example, has parts of the show that are cued in time by music and other times that we are driven by lighting cues – there is not a truly called video cue in the show. Without the collaboration and communication between video and other departments, video cues would not happen. In fact, without communication and collaboration between departments the show would fall apart.

In addition to Joe's work on Broadway, he designed the projections for the current University of Pittsburgh production of Nine. 

Below is a snapshot of his work.