Catherine Cornell is a scenic designer, freelance artist and avid writer whose work has appeared across the country but is primarily highlighted at theaters around the greater Seattle region, including The Book Club Play now at Village Theatre. “My business is to facilitate storytelling. A play’s scenery gives context to what is happening on stage and is only one of many parts that come together to create great theater.” Learn about Catherine Cornell…
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
First job: I volunteered and interned at theaters in high school and college. I got very lucky with my first paid job painting on a major film while in school.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: Eating. There’s amazing food around here. I also love walking the many urban trails around Seattle and the East Side with my husband.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Growing as an artist. Growth is hard. It requires us to look at ourselves honestly and recognize when something could be better. Creating art can feel very personal and take a lot of energy, so it is painful to be told – or to realize myself – that my “great” ideas don’t work for the larger story. Scrapping ideas and committing the effort to find a better solution is hard, but it’s made me better at my craft and, I think, as a person.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Mental health, specifically OCD. OK, I haven’t exactly “overcome” it – that’s a lifelong process. I was diagnosed with OCD as a teenager, and I am immensely grateful for the support I had then. I’ve learned a lot of positive ways to manage it in my life that I really think have saved me. Sometimes, it’s still a beast I grapple with, but I now know how to grapple.
Someone who inspires you and why: My mother came from very little in a poor neighborhood. She studied, worked and raised me and my brother by herself while maintaining a demanding corporate job, driving us to activities and volunteering her time for others in need. She faced adversity on a lot of levels and held her head high so her children could hold theirs higher. That woman is a titan, and I am forever grateful for the shoulders she’s given me to stand on.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Do it because you love it. Don’t do it for notoriety or money. If that’s your ultimate goal, you’ll be disappointed. If you pursue a career in theater because the craft and colleagues feed your soul, you’ll be happy no matter what. Ultimately, when you do a thing you enjoy, you’re more likely to apply yourself and grow. That’s what leads to better opportunities.
Favorite quote: “Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names.” –Toni Morrison
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: My mom is Puerto Rican, and my heart beats to the rhythm of salsa!
What makes someone fabulous: I think a person is fabulous when they find the confidence to be their strange and imperfect self in front of others…and when they accept others in turn as their strange, imperfect selves.