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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI theater student wins regional scenic design award -- To enter national competition at the Kennedy Center

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 25, 2004 -- If all the world’s a stage as the Bard suggests, then Patrick Lynch has his work cut out for him.

And that's just fine with the University of Rhode Island senior, who at 21, is already a veteran theater designer and an award winning one at that.

His imaginative stage design for URI/Theatre’s fall production of Antigone captured the regional Barbizon Award for Theatrical Design Excellence.

Barbizon, Inc., a theatrical supply house specializing in lighting for professionals, offers the award to give outstanding student designers like Lynch national recognition and an opportunity to exhibit their work at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in April during the national Kennedy Center American College Festival competition. If Lynch is selected the national winner he will receive a $500 honorarium and a trip to New York City where he will get the chance to visit the studios of numerous distinguished designers.

Lynch already has three years of experience working as an assistant to one distinguished designer, Tony Award winner Eugene Lee, whose work has enhanced numerous stages at Trinity Repertory Theatre.

"Over the years, I have invited a number of students to my home who show an interest in set design," says Lee in a telephone interview from the set of Saturday Night Live! Lee has designed for the television program since it went on the air nearly 30 years ago. "If they stay around long enough, they eventually get on the payroll." Lee notes that Lynch, like some earlier apprentices, has become part of his extended family. "Patrick has come a long way. He’s going to do just fine."

Most recently, Lynch has assisted Lee in designing the stage for Trinity Rep’s current production of Hughie, starring Brian Dennehy.

The URI student can hardly believe he gets paid for his work with the prominent designer. Sometimes the job requires working with Lee long into the night. "It’s never wasted time," Lynch says. "He’s so incredibly creative. I feel so privileged just tossing ideas back and forth with him."

Antigone is one of three main stage plays Lynch designed for URI/Theatre, designing Our Town when he was just a sophomore.

"I ‘ve never turned down an opportunity to sit down and draw. Even when I was a kid, I remember kneeling down on the floor in front of the TV and drawing," says Lynch who earned numerous acting credits at community theaters growing up in East Greenwich and at URI. When he realized that his love for drawing and theater could be combined into a scenic designer career, the die was cast.

"My work is pretty abstract," says the current Narragansett resident who has applied to Yale Drama School for graduate school. "Less is more. While reading Antigone, I felt things were falling apart and a bit broken and I thought about how to show that in visual terms. I wanted less location and more atmosphere."

Lynch used big, vertical columns to create tension and stuffed body bags, old books, and maps beyond the elevated 30-foot by 40-foot stage.

Theater is a collaborative art, according to Lynch. "It takes a village," he said. He collaborated closely with Antigone’s director Bryna Wortman, spending hours discussing designs with her on the phone and in person.

Cheryl deWardener who teaches scenic design was the charge artist for Antigone. When she showed Lynch a swatch of paint for a floor area, he thought it was too yellow and requested a little more brown. "It was such a funny feeling telling my professor what to do," he says.

"Patrick is an extraordinary student who is so young to have so many design credits," says Paula McGlasson, chair of URI/Theatre. "He has so much vision and has worked with a master and observed firsthand. I predict Patrick will go to Broadway within 20 years and design sets for musicals which he so loves."