Q&A: Meet the Drama Alum Behind Some of the Most Impressive Sets in Show Biz
If you enjoy late-night television, watch the Super Bowl or celebrate New Year’s Eve, you have likely seen a set designed by University of Virginia alumnus J. Patrick Adair.
Adair, a 2004 graduate with degrees in drama and media studies, has built an impressive résumé over eight years working as an art director in Hollywood. He has designed sets for entertainment icons like the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice. Right now, he is in the midst of preparations for the Los Angeles taping of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” a production he has been involved with for three years.
Last week, Adair returned to his alma mater to partner with current students on the set design of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a punk-rock take on the life of America’s seventh president playing at the Culbreth Theater through Saturday. He also met with students in the Creative Arts, Media and Design career community to share lessons learned from his journey to Hollywood.
UVA Today caught up with Adair on opening night to discuss his career and his advice for current students drawn to the drama of show business.
Q. As art director, what are your primary duties?
A. I work with the production designer, who guides the look and feel of the show, and help them to bring their vision to life. I will often take something like a napkin drawing, flesh it out into a full-color illustration and bring it back to the production team. If they are happy with it, I execute all of the technical drawings, painter’s elevations and CAD (computer-aided design) renderings necessary to make it a reality. I also keep an eye on the budget, which most projects live and die by.
There is a very small group of art directors that work in my specific field, which focuses on talk shows, award shows, game shows and other live entertainment. Our working life is very different from people who work on movies and sitcoms. Their work is like theater in that they are working from a script to tell a narrative. My work is like theater in that most of it happens in a room with a stage and an audience. We are creating a relationship between the performers and the audience. More . . .