Laura Valenti

Laura Valenti (BA, 2018)

Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Pitt?

Funny enough, I had no intentions of doing anything theatre related coming into Pitt.  I had done theatre my whole life, on the performing side, and was intending on studying Neuroscience.  Well, the first semester came to a close and I was miserable so I became an undecided major and I got involved in the Musical Theatre Club.  After getting very involved in that, I wanted to try out some behind the scenes work.  For a year or two I dabbled in stage management, realizing I am no stage manager!  So I tried some other facets, landing on scenic design and painting.  I decided to stay at Pitt for my theatre career, as I was receiving incredible mentoring by Gianni Downs and Annmarie Duggan; they pay a lot of attention to the needs of their students and I knew I was going to get the professional experience I needed by sticking by the program they have heavily constructed for the technical students.  Everything from internships, studying abroad for theatre, post-college jobs, connecting me with people, and even still mentoring me today, the faculty at Pitt Theatre always made me feel more than supported.

How did the program help prepare you for life after graduation?

Even though I decided late in my college career to officially pursue set design and painting as a career, I felt very prepared going into the "real world."  Pitt Theatre holds their students to a professional level, everything from deadlines to caliber of designs, rehearsals, tech, and performances.  Because we were held to a professional standard, nothing was really shocking once I started working on professional shows.  Getting to work with faculty and professional directors who have had plenty of experience allowed me to already have the dialogue and communication needed for professional theatre too.  Also, it was emphasized from the very beginning how important making good connections were and how important just being a good colleague would get you far in this career, and so far that holds very true…


What is your current position and how did you get it?

Currently I am a freelance set designer and scenic painter in NYC.  I primarily assist Jason Ardizzone-West as his model builder in his studio, which I love doing most!  I also am the Assistant Charge Artist at Atlantic Theatre Company and also paint at several other Off-Broadway theaters including Minetta Lane Theatre, St. Clements, Stage Two, and more.  I also have been picking up my own smaller design gigs and I’m even assistant designing a 1920s immersive theater event! I got these jobs simply by sending cold emails and making good connections with one person… who would lead me to another.. and another.  They were right about making good connections!!


Do you have any thoughts or advice for current students?

If you were to ask me pre-pandemic what my advice would be to college students, I would say “say yes to all of the opportunities!!” And while I still say this, I think it should definitely come with considerations.  Unfortunately some theaters will take advantage of young theatre makers by offering low paying stipends that don't pay the bills on top of working ridiculous hours.  And this can definitely affect your mental health, something that should also be taken into consideration when accepting gigs.  So say yes to the opportunities when they check all of your boxes, but also, know your worth, set your boundaries, advocate for yourself, and know it is okay to also say “no”!