“Whether creating a naturalistic or an abstract world, the goal is to give the audience permission to completely surrender and immerse themselves into the journey – to provide a sense of wonder, a confluence of both surprise and inevitability for the physical world of a performance.”
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz is a Los Angeles based Set and Costume designer for live performance, installation artist and painter. Her work has been on stages all across Southern California as well as Portland Oregon, and Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Recently she received the LADCC Kinetic Award for Distinguished Achievement in Design. She is also the recipient of many other multiple awards and nominations, including Ovation, LADCC, LA Weekly, NAACP, Stage Raw, Garland Awards among others. She has taught scene design at UC Irvine. As a writer she has published several short stories online and in print, and is at work on a linked story collection. She has read for Rant and Rave among other public readings, and attended Tin House and Squaw Valley writers’ conferences. She has the privilege of being a Huntington Library Scholar where she has handled the papers of Jack London as research for her play, Burning Daylight. Currently a board member, Resident Designer and a founding member of Rogue Machine Theatre. She has served as the Facilities Trustee on the Board of Kehillat Israel, overseeing major renovations of the synagogue building. She is a graduate of State University of New York College at Purchase, and a member of United Scenic Artists. Her artwork has been shown as part of the Culver City Artwalk, and in the Projecting Possibilities at the Helms Design Center.
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- READ The Center Theatre Group article on “The Set Design Magic of Good Grief“
- The Kinetic Lighting Award | LA Drama Critics Circle for for distinguished achievement in theatrical design
- Ovation Award Nomination | Set Design | Stupid Fucking Bird at Boston Court Pasadena
- Ovation Award Nomination | Garland Award Winner | Costume Design | Compleat Female Stage Beauty at Rogue Machine Theatre
- LA Weekly Award Winner | Garland Award Winner | LADCC Nomination | Set Design | Treefall at Rogue Machine Theatre
- LA Weekly Nomination | LA NAACP Nomination | Set Design | One Night in Miami at Rogue Machine Theatre
- LA Weekly Production of the Year Award | Set Design | Song of Extinction at Moving Arts Theatre
MAGELLANICA Set Design | Artist’s Repertory Theatre
Long, cold, and worth it Artists Rep’s premiere of E.M. Lewis’s Antarctic drama “Magellanica” – all five and a half hours of it – tells an epic tale of lives on the edge. The visual design in Magellanica is masterful. Instead of invoking the claustrophobia of the station by realistically recreating its small interior, scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz does away with walls almost entirely. Instead, huge white sheets tower above the actors and enclose the stage, while small mobile set pieces create the rooms of the station. The isolation doesn’t come from walls. It’s from the landscape. It looms large in the show. Ice in every direction. Beautiful, alien, and dangerous.
GEM OF THE OCEAN | A Noise Within
From the well-defined interior of Aunt Ester’s home to the creaking timbers of those long-ago slave ships to the ghostly lights of the City of Bones sequence, the design elements are uniformly spectacular.
LES BLANCS | Rogue Machine Theatre
Stephanie Kerley’s Schwartz’s wooden construct of a set is imposing and impressive.
The very atmosphere in the theater evokes Africa […] Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set, slats of wood lashed together, summons the humble mission in the fictional African country where the story is set.
TREVOR | Circle X Theatre
Almost a character in itself is Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set. Done in a homely vernacular, it’s so huge and detailed that it’s almost overwhelming. Coming from Schwartz — who created the lyrical minimalism supporting Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea — this outsized kitsch-fest is no accident. Silently but powerfully, it puts us all in Trevor’s plight, surrounded by familiar objects that nonetheless feel vaguely threatening.
So impressive is Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s realistic set that one is immediately swept into a somewhat disheveled middle class home belonging to Sandra Morris (amazingly superb Laurie Metcalf).
As Trevor (the amazing Jimmi Simpson) analyzes his television work from the couch on Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s superb scenic design, Sandra Morris (ever-axiomatic Laurie Metcalf) bursts in, maternally bemoaning Trevor’s excursion in her car.
PYGMALION | The Pasadena Playhouse
The seamless flow of the production design serves as a haunting reminder that the audience is not only watching a comedy, but is in the middle of a social battleground that challenges the very fabric of English society. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s breathtaking scenic design has an unspoken mechanistic quality that hints at Shaw’s Marxist leanings.
STUPID FUCKING BIRD | The Theatre @ Boston Court Pasadena
This West Coast premiere, jointly presented by two redoubtable local companies, Circle X and Boston Court, pools their creative resources to salutary effect, not least in the impressively rich-appearing sets of Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, following her contrastingly disheveled abandoned swimming pool in Rogue Machine’s Penelope by a bare fortnight.
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s handsome sets range from bare and minimalist in Act I to a kitchen interior so realistically detailed that it includes not only a kitchen sink but a working blender where Connie can make his berry slushies.
With all its dangerous trappings – a risky set by the absurdly good Stephanie Kerley Schwartz;… a hefty piece of good old-fashioned serious theater.
Not surprisingly, Stupid Fucking Bird is gorgeously designed. (At Boston Court, who could expect less?) Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s expansive set has a fresh-cut lumber look and scent that proves just right for a Chekhov takeoff, and does surprisingly “homey” things in Act Two.
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI | Rogue Machine Theatre
Director Carl Cofield keeps things tautly entertaining on designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s excellent set.
This play needs to be seen for a number of reasons; it’s simply brilliant and its subject matter is weighty. Script, direction, performances, set design (by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz)—everything is superb across the board. Rogue Machine seldom disappoints and this show is breathtakingly good. There just aren’t enough superlatives…
TREEFALL | Rogue Machine Theatre
Director John Perrin Flynn utilizes the prodigious talent of award-winning set designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz to deliver his vision of the looming devastation. Her realization of the mighty age of technology reduced to rubble is a show in itself.
It would be impossible to write a review about this play and not mention the set. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’ Mad Max meets Swiss Family Robinson Tree house design is spectacular.
In its debut production from Rogue Machine, Murray’s provocative…four-character drama benefits from…aspectacularly detailed scenic design (by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz) strewn with the detritus of civilization. Visually and emotionally gripping.
Meticulously designed by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz.
Treefall features a remarkably versatile tiered set that allows this story to travel from mountainside streams to dilapidated food cellar and back to the rickety, claustrophobic cabin that the boys call home.
The stage setting is imaginative beyond belief, the writing evocative and the ensemble of four actors impeccable.
THE WHO’S TOMMY Set Design | East West Players
A glossy, Asian-inflected production grabs the eye from first sight of designer Stephanie Kerley-Schwartz’s smartly functional set, replete with strobe-capable light towers and compact discs hanging from the proscenium like hallucinogenic sequins.
DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA | Skylight Theatre Company
“Be prepared to be amazed by what’s around you.” That line, from Nathan Alan Davis’s Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea, should serve as a benevolent warning to the audience entering the SkylightTheatre. This fable about a young Black man’s search for an ancestor who leapt off a slave ship as it crossed the Atlantic weaves storytelling, music, dance, and ritual into a fantastical tapestry: imaginatively conceived and written, spectacularly staged and designed, and acted with ferocious commitment, the result is thrilling. Also inspired are the contributions of the design team: Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set, with pieces cleverly serving more than one purpose (who knew a picnic table could turn into a Viking longboat?!).
Kudos to Stephanie Kerley’s top-tier set composed of wooden planks and multi-purpose wooden pieces with free-form white drapes serving as video projection screens for Nicholas Santiago’s effectual waves, rain, and stars. Impeccably staged set changes by the cast morph platforms into a dining room table, a bed, the edge of a swimming pool, and the piece de resistance-a sailboat.
SONG OF EXTINCTION | Moving Arts Theatre
Moving Arts world premiere production; visually stunning …scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz has given Lewis’s words even greater strength than they already have on the written page. Especially striking are scenes in which Lily’s hospital bed becomes a boat traveling down Bolivian waters in Lily’s morphine-induced dreams. Equally stunning are the shadowy white figures of Khim’s family which appear behind translucent glass windows whenever Khim’s memories take him back to the killing fields of Cambodia.
Everything about this play is done to perfection. The scenic design by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz is totally ingenious: just a few accoutrements to change a setting from an office to a noodle shop, while leaving the dominant setting— Lily’s hospital bed, to be brought into play or closed off by a gauze curtain that circles her bed. Further, the stage is flanked on both sides by column-high shrines filled with simple artifacts, photographic portraits, and plants representing Cambodia. And overhead, as the characters speak of Cambodia or Bolivia, projections flash photographs depicting the natural beauty of those countries.
The set (Stephanie Kerley Schwartz) is a gorgeous shrine to places and people who have suffered as a result of extinction: Cambodian refugees and the jungles that inhabit the mysteries of a nature left undiscovered.
Nicely conceived design elements elevate this production above the ordinary. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s Asian-influenced scenic design includes an overhead screen allowing multimedia images to represent location changes.
COMPLEAT FEMALE STAGE BEAUTY | Rogue Machine Theatre
Under the astute guidance of helmer John Perrin Flynn, an accomplished 18-member ensemble impressively bombards the audience with the hedonistic merriment of these post-Puritan times. The production designs of Stephanie“ Kerley Schwartz (sets and costumes)… greatly contribute to the period veracity of the work.
The direction “deftly captures the play’s epic sweep, and he’s well-served by a large and able cast. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz provides the handsome unit set and the lavish costume designs, which range dizzily from Elizabethan through Restoration to contemporary… great fun to watch.
STRANGER IN THE KINGDOM | Production & Costume Design | Feature Film
A handsome, sober, social drama…looks great on the big screen. ‘Kingdom’ has the sort of studio polish one associates with far bigger pictures thanks to the richly textured physical design of Stephanie Kerley Schwartz.
MONKEY ADORED | Rogue Machine Theatre
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz designed both set and costumes with a clear eye.
The ever-brilliant Stephanie Kerley Schwartz paired with projection designer Adam Flemming makes for a perfect match. Working in tandem, the wonderfully minimalist but character specific setting is further enhanced by animal silhouettes as they saunter by as shadow puppets against a large scrim.
Sealing the deal in this ambitious world-premiere rendition are awe-inspiring designs – including Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set and costumes.
Delightful costumes by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz… contribute to a sense of a colorful cartoon about the end of things.
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s costumes (she also did the detailed set) are exceptionally delicious.
PARADISE A BLUEGRASS MUSICAL | The Ruskin Theatre
As always, set design by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz outdoes herself (again and again) with her keen eye for detail, creative use of space and personality that makes her one of the best set designers in LA.
Directed with remarkable concentration by Robin Larsen, the production takes place in a nondescript lounge of a cold, uninviting company. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set, spilling over with lunchroom detritus, suggests the emotional garbage that Una and Ray are still wading through.
Stephanie Kerley Schwartz knows how to finesse a set with absolute precision and realism as is the case here.
[Blackbird] is basically a small play, and it is more comfortable in the tiny space of Theatre/Theater, gracefully configured by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s eerily realistic break room.
We have the advantage of being inside the room with them. Indeed, because Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s scenic design in Theatre/Theatre’s smaller space is so utterly realistic, it seems almost as if chairs and risers had been added to a preexisting factory room, and not the other way around.