Inside Broadway: Anna Louizos

Whitney Spaner

Set designer Anna Louizos first set her sights on the Great White Way while seeing Broadway touring companies perform shows in San Francisco as a young girl. She moved to New York City and graduated from NYU with a degree in acting, but after taking some courses in drafting and modeling, her interests shifted to the sets. She earned her MFA in design from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and got her big break in 2001 designing the sets for Jonathan Larson's posthumously produced musical tick, tick… BOOM! She made her Broadway debut in 2003 with a Sesame Street-like set for Avenue Q, which now lives Off-Broadway at New World Stages. On Broadway, she's currently making fairy-tale magic for Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella with a set that includes a sweeping palace staircase, a moving forest and a glittering carriage—complete with prancing horses—that's truly fit for a princess.

Why did you want to become a set designer? Anna Louizos: Because I love live theater—I think it's one of the great, unique things about New York—and I get to be a part of it. I love how when you're sitting out in the audience and you look out at a stage, you can see the most incredible transformations from one world to another happen right before your eyes.

Where are your favorite places to go in New York City? AL: My studio is up in Harlem, and it's a great place to explore now. It's a growing neighborhood—it's very lively, and there's a lot of good food and entertainment. Lido Italian restaurant is very good, and The 5 and Diamond on Frederick Douglass is good. Harlem Food Bar has good nibbling food. There's also the most spectacular cathedral in the entire New York City area called St. John the Divine. It is huge and it's not finished, but it is the most spectacular place to walk into.

Do you find inspiration for your sets in the City? AL: With Cinderella, I did a lot of my research looking at books and illustrations, fairy-tale illustrators and certain artists, but my favorite place to figure out how the scenery moves on- and offstage is the subway. There's something about just chugging along on the train that makes my mind start to wonder. I close my eyes and I think about how I'm going to get the house onstage and offstage and move things in and out—that's really my favorite place to solve problems.