St. Petersburg College Theater Director Scott Cooper won the Best Set Design award at the 2020 Theater Tampa Bay Awards last week. Cooper’s winning design was for the set of Morningside, which was performed at Tampa’s Stageworks Theater in February.
Morningside is a play about a baby shower in Atlanta’s Morningside neighborhood, which brings nine multi-generational women together for a revealing afternoon. Cooper, who has an MFA in set design and 25 years of experience, said it was important to understand those characters and make the set look like they belong in it.
“Morningside is a real place in the Suburbs of Georgia, so I did a lot of research to see how the homes really looked,” Cooper said. “First, I had to design the house and then decorate it for the party. The leading character is a bit of a snob who is very worried about appearances, so it would be tasteful and the best of everything. It had to be high end everything and perfectly placed – not tons of cheap stuff.”
Students were able to enhance their SPC theater education by helping Cooper build and paint this set and others for professional productions through SPC. Cooper said it’s a great opportunity for hands-on learning and lessons in professional behavior.
“These productions teach the facts of deadlines: you can’t ask for an extension—the show opens when it opens,” he said. “They also learn the collaborative process first-hand. Things change and opinions are asked – even from the students at times.”
The opportunity to work in a professional setting also makes students’ dreams seem attainable.
“There is a real professional theater world out there with jobs. You just have to get a foot in the door,” Cooper said. “Many have gone on to work for these theaters professionally, which is always great to see.”
This isn’t Cooper’s first nod for set design. This is his sixth win for Best Set Design with the Theater Tampa Bay Awards, and he has also taken home the Best Scenic Designer for Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay awards four times. He has also been nominated twice for the Jefferson Award in Scenic Design in Chicago.
“Winning is great,” he said. “But honestly, I love being nominated. That just shows approval of your work by your peers. This win is pretty amazing, and it reminds me how lucky I am to do what I do professionally.”