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Scenic designer joins ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre


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Arnel Sancianco

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May 18, 2021

Scenic designer Arnel Sancianco joins the School of Music, Dance and Theatre in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts this fall. 

“We are thrilled to have attracted an artist of Sancianco’s caliber to our design and production program,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “Sancianco’s unique socially engaged scenic design voice, his wealth of diverse professional experiences in scenic design throughout the country, his creative ideas about design curricula, and his emphasis on equity and inclusion will complement and enhance our design and production offerings.”

Sancianco received his bachelor’s degree in drama with honors in design at UC Irvine and his MFA in scenic design from Northwestern University. He has designed all around the United States, with a lengthy repertoire of plays in his credits. At ASU, he will teach scenic design as well as “Drafting for the Stage” this fall. 

“I was drawn to ASU and the Herberger Institute for their emphasis on innovation and collaboration,” Sancianco said. “I was excited by the resources available that would allow me to develop collaborative projects across the campus as well as progress upon new courses that would challenge the next generation of theater-makers.”

Sanciano, who refers to himself as a “theater nerd” from a young age, said part of challenging his students is teaching them to embrace failure. 

“I believe learning from your failures opens you up to the possibilities of innovation,” he said. “I’ve worked in some of the largest opera houses to the smallest storefronts. My experience in theater over the last decade has taught me that limitations shouldn’t restrict a designer’s ability. Designers should view limitations as an opportunity to innovate. My hope is to guide students through the innovative process and embrace failure.”

The two courses he will teach this fall home in on practical and necessary skills for the stage and offer a hands-on approach designed to introduce students to processes such as scale model making, storyboarding, hand drafting and more.

“Over the years I’ve learned to hone my craft, and I’m constantly learning from the people around me while also helping them develop their art,” he said. “I’ve always been the type of person who enjoyed mentoring young artists – the process of watching someone discover their voice and their perspective on their world and turn their experience into a work of art is very special to me.”

Sancianco said the newly reorganized School of Music, Dance and Theatre, which brings the performing arts disciplines together under one school, “offers many opportunities for students to explore a path in theatrical design, and I believe with the support of ASU I can help guide these students towards a successful career in theater that will diversify the landscape of the stage.”

In addition to the technical aspects of his teaching, Sancianco said he wants to help ensure all voices are represented in the theater world. 

“I grew up being told ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’” he said. “My hope is that through my mentorship and guidance, I will be able to expand the spectrum of voices and stories being told on and off the stage.”

Currently, Sancianco is working on Court Theatre’s digital production of “Titanic: Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry of 1912” and Goodman Theatre’s live digital productions of “The Sound Inside,” “The Ohio State Murders” and “I Hate It Here,” all of which will be available for streaming this summer.

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