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Artisan Spotlight: Michelle Fullerton

Scenic Artist who painted the large scale moon for A Midsummer Night’s Dream 

Scenic Artist, Michelle Fullerton
Photo by Sam Ferrigno

Tell me about your experience painting the moon for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I’ve worked as a Scenic Artist for nearly twenty years and this was certainly one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever painted. I’m incredibly fortunate to have an amazing group of artists whose talent and hard work were crucial to the project. And on a personal note, as a nature lover and avid camper, I’ve spent countless hours gazing up at the moon in awe of its beauty and the magical nature of it. It was both a dream come true and quite humbling to have the opportunity to work on this project.

Scenic Artist Michelle Fullerton applies
final touches to the large-scale moon
featured in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Photo by Karin Rabe.

How did this experience stand out from your other projects in the Scene Shop?
Generally, we’re given either a small rendering or research photos of the Scenic Designer’s vision for each unit (be it a full stage backdrop, a faux marble floor, an old brick wall etc.). For this particular piece our designer Vincent Mountain, wanted it to be a fairly realistic representation of The Moon. It was an amazing challenge, if not somewhat daunting, to be tasked with painting something so awe inspiring which has been seen and admired by every person on Earth.

What might the average audience member not know about the work you do behind the scenes?
I imagine that when most people think about how a large scale backdrop is painted, they envision something similar to a mural; a huge vertical surface with scaffolding or a scissor lift. Although we often use our large scale paint frame (it’s approximately 30 ft. high by 60 ft. wide), many times we will actually lay out the drop on a frame on the floor, as we did with the moons for the majority of the work on them. We then attach our paint brushes to long bamboo poles and paint standing up. This allows us to stand back a bit from the work, backdrops are designed to be viewed from a distance. It also saves our back and knees and allows us to use techniques that might not be possible on a vertical surface.

How did you become a Scenic Artist?
In college, I bounced back and forth between the Theatre and the Fine Art. I finally realized that as a Scenic Artist I could have the best of both worlds. I was able to create beautiful pieces while still enjoying the collaborative environment that comes along with working in a scenic studio.

What do you love most about your job?
I love creating things that are larger than life. I love the challenge of taking something that exists only as a small painting or sketch, or sometimes only in the Scenic Designer’s mind, interpreting their vision and bringing it to life on stage. And I especially love that I get to do this every day in a huge collaborative effort with the rest of the Alley staff, who happen to be some of the most amazing, talented and visionary people I’ve ever known.