Student Spotlight: production designer Will Maresco '19

by Lauren Segal | 3/2/18 1:05am

A pioneer in the theater department, Will Maresco ’19 deviates from the typical Dartmouth theater major track, finding his passion in stage design. Participating in countless school productions, Maresco has cultivated an expansive repertoire of skills that span from sound design to lighting.

Arriving at Dartmouth as an engineering major with high school experience in theater, Maresco said he knew that he wanted to continue to pursue the performing arts in some manner.

“I realized I couldn’t not do it,” Maresco said. “I found myself wishing I had more time to do theater while I was on campus, so eventually I said I should listen to those thoughts.”

Despite the difficulty he faced transitioning into a full-fledged theater major, Maresco said that he is glad he let himself follow his desires, as he is much happier now. Maresco decided to pursue a theater major with a minor in engineering, a combination that he finds compliments his interests and future ambitions.

Since beginning his study of theater at Dartmouth, Maresco has been grateful for all of the resources that the theater department provides to enhance his own knowledge of his craft. Being thrust into a higher-budget, more professional environment came as a shock after high school performances; however, Maresco built up a solid foundation of technical prowess with which he navigates his own interests. The higher-stakes environment also forced him to change how he approached stage design, especially as the productions he undertakes have become increasingly more professional.

“I’ve realized that I have to make a lot of decisions really quickly, and I have to be confident in those decisions,” Maresco said. “I can’t question if they’re the right ones all the time. I just have to make the decisions and stick to them.”

While this realization reminds Maresco of how high the pressure can get as he gains insight and skill, it also plays a crucial role in cementing Maresco’s self-assurance, which he finds is necessary to attain high-quality results.

“I think that my work on the productions at Dartmouth have enhanced my confidence in myself and my confidence in my work,” Maresco said.

As a theater major concentrating on stage design, rather than the more popular acting and directing tracks, Maresco has unique expertise within the department.

Jaclyn Pageau ’18, a fellow theater major who worked with Maresco on the theater department’s recent mainstage production of “1984,” believes that Maresco provides invaluable insight when working on productions.

“He has a very well-rounded foundation of the different technical aspects that are involved in theater,” Pageau said. “He has such a good knowledge of all the different aspects of theater production that he’s such an asset to a team when you’re working on a show.”

As a specialist in theater production, Maresco has had many different opportunities available to him. Since beginning his career as a Dartmouth theater student, Maresco noticed that his priorities when deciding which productions to take on have changed drastically.

“I’ve learned to become more selective about what projects I’ll take on,” Maresco said. “Initially, I chose projects that sounded technically interesting, such as big shows where I would be able to do a lot of work. Now, I’ve realized that ‘a lot of work’ comes with all productions, and I choose to focus on productions with messages that speak to me.”

Although the technical expertise Maresco has gained through his years at Dartmouth is a necessary foundation, he said the most critical lesson he has learned is how to work with his audience. While big sound effects are dynamic in productions, Maresco said he tends to focus on subtle sound techniques, such as silence, to elicit a reaction from his audience of which they may not even be aware.

“I don’t try to do anything for the audience,” Maresco said. “Although I want them to feel a certain way at a certain point, I’m going to be disappointed every time because I can’t control their emotions. Instead of eliciting a reaction through direct means, I want the audience to wonder why they feel a certain way.”

Maresco’s passion for sound design is encouraging the theater department to strive to provide him with the resources he needs to excel.

“We’ve never had a resident advisor for sound design, but now that [Maresco] has demonstrated such a strong interest, the school’s bringing people in to work with him,” Pageau said.

After graduation, Maresco intends to pursue his interests and ideally work at a regional theater. At higher levels of theater production, such as on Broadway, Maresco believes it will be harder to maintain the broad nature of his theatrical expertise.

“At this point, I’m not sure if I’m ready to pick an area of production I would like to specialize in,” Maresco said. “I would like to maintain my interests in lighting, set design and sound, so I’m looking to keep all of those different passions alive.”

In the meantime, Maresco will continue his backstage work for Dartmouth productions. He will be taking on the role of student designer for the musical “Hair” in the spring. Students rarely gain the responsibility of designing a musical ­— a testament to Maresco’s unique talent and dedication to theater production.

Maresco said what he enjoys most about designing productions is the feeling of seeing the final product after months of preparation.

“No one can ever do it all by themselves,” Maresco said. “We’re doing this to achieve a final product, and when we collaborate well, we end up with a final product that’s better than any one person could have created.” 

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