When the Lights Went Out: Scenic Designer Anna Louizos

(Anna Louizos)

Scenic designer Anna Louizos shares how she is coping with COVID-19 closing in this series, "When the Lights Went Out," where theatrical designers discuss what they are doing these days.

In early March, Anna Louizos had just returned from the La Jolla opening of the musical Fly, which shuttered six days after opening. “For the cast, crew, and La Jolla, it was a devastating blow,” says Louizos, who was also in the process of completing the design for a new musical by Lourds Lane, Super You, scheduled for The Daryl Roth Theatre in May; it’s planned now for some time in 2021. An August opening of Ragtime at Bay Street, a new live version of Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, and a Mexico City production of School of Rock have all been canceled or postponed.

“I don't hold much hope that I will be working for some time,” Louizos says. “In the meantime, I'm making lemonade.”

“Fortunately, my spouse, Robyn Goodman, and I have a place out of the city in Columbia County.” They’ve had the house, “the house that Avenue Q bought,” since 2003 but used it mainly as a weekend place. “Now we are on a permanent vacation up here since March 18. Being here full-time has given me the unexpected opportunity to take care of things I've been meaning to do for years: renovating and upgrading part of a barn to make it a workshop space, planting trees, planting vegetables, pruning bushes, clearing some vegetation, building pantry shelves, and cleaning and patching up the basement,” she says.

Anna Louizos planting a Cherry tree

She’s also had time to cook, bake bread, pick grape leaves from her garden, and make homemade stuffed grape leaves. “I cook every day. I usually do anyway; just now it's the highlight of the day. And more cocktails these days,” she says, “and a few added pounds!”

After a local clinic tested and found Louizos and Goodman negative, they invited guests, giving friends a needed break from the city. “Being able to breathe the fresh air without masks has been restorative for everyone.”

Binge-watching an Australian series, A Place to Call Home, “like Dynasty down under,” The  Durrells in Corfu on PBS— “best series ever!”—the standup comedy of Hannah Gadsby: Douglas and Wanda Sykes: Not Normal—“funny and thought-provoking”—and keeping in touch with loved ones on Zoom, Facetime, and Skype, has kept her feeling good.

“For the last couple of years, because my work took me to Asia, England, and Australia, I was not home nearly a third of the year. As a result of the pandemic, Robyn and I are enjoying the best time we have ever had together. We joke that if this is a dry run of retirement, then it's not too shabby! I cry for those in our business who have yet to make enough money to have saved anything during this time; I know I certainly didn't until my late 30s, so this is hard for many people.”

“Seeing how so many artists in our business are finding creative ways to perform, write, originate, and connect is inspiring,” she says. “The creative impulse doesn't take a break. It's always there. It just needs an outlet so using the available platforms makes sense.”

“The bigger question is what value do we place on the work of theatre artists? The business of theatre relies on the synergy of those who create it and those who produce it. If artists are to survive, make a living, those who produce it must compensate the artists who create it. The pre-pandemic model, in commercial theatre anyway, has become such an expensive undertaking; I hope this disruption creates an opportunity for a common sense solution that may crack open the door between theatre owners, the League, the unions and the artists. I hope it gives everyone pause, to reflect on what compels people to go to the theatre. Otherwise, binge-watching at home is a lot easier and cheaper.”

Louizos adds, “Theatre needs a reboot. It has to be affordable and accessible, first and foremost to people who live in New York if it is to be relevant and survive. Not just tourists.”

Read more "When the Lights Went Out" stories here.

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