Andrea Bechert, an assistant professor and designer in SJSU’s Department of Film and Theatre program, has been named SVCreates 2019 Backstage Laureate for her exemplary scene and set designs for more than 350 productions, including world premieres across the country and many Silicon Valley shows. Bechert will be honored along with seven other artists, musicians and authors at the 2019 SVArts Awards June 27 and her profile will be featured in July/August issue of Content Magazine.
“I received a call in March telling me I was receiving the award,” she said. “I was quite floored. This is an incredible honor. There are so many talented and wonderful people I work with, and incredible artists who have received this award before me.”
She describes her work as a scenic designer as a unique and magical task.
“I create a new world for each production of a play, unique to the particular characters, their struggles and stories,” she said. “When I do my job well, the audience connects with these visuals, becoming engrossed in the experience of the play, and are transported momentarily into the world of the characters.”
She uses the arrangement and composition of visual elements to inspire mental and emotional connections in the audience members’ minds.
While classes are out, Bechert remains busy working on a few projects, including a production of The Language Archives for Tony Award-winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 50th season; a production of The Cottage produced by Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, and In the Heights produced by the Center Repertory Theatre. This fall, she will work on SJSU production of a new work created and directed by Kathleen Normington, an SJSU lecturer, called (dreamer) Project – an UndocuPlay. The play is based on stories of SJSU students.
“Live theater is such a magical experience,” Bechert said. “We gather together as a group to witness a live event that moves us to laughter and tears, sharing in the experience of the characters before us, considering the elements of our shared humanity.”
As a scenic designer with hundreds of productions on her resume, Bechert finds it hard to select a favorite. But she names a few through the years that are especially dear to her heart. Peter Pan, Macbeth and A Midsummer Nights Dream top the list, and her recent work on Fun Home last fall.
“This new musical, adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name, is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist,” she said. “The story is touching and important, the music is beautiful, and the team I worked with at TheatreWorks are some of the most talented and wonderful people on this planet. How could that combination be anything other than fantastic?”
The show received a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for design and the overall production. Bechert has especially enjoyed working with TheatreWorks, where she has designed 35 productions through the years. Founder and Artistic Director Robert Kelley will lead his final season with the theatre this year.
“I am the ‘bookends’ of the season,” she noted. “I will be designing the first show of the season, The Language Archive, and the final show, which will be Robert Kelley’s final show, The Book of Will.”
“When you collaborate with the same people on stories that touch your soul time and time again, they become like family,” she said. “I am so happy that TheatreWorks received the Tony Award this year for their exceptional achievements.”
In addition to TheatreWorks, Bechert has designed for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, The Cleveland Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Musical Theatre of San Jose, Opera San Jose, Center Repertory Theatre, the Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Peninsula Youth Theatre, San Jose Children’s Musical Theatre Company, the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas, and many others. She has received more than 20 regional design awards.
View examples of her scenic design online.