We sat down with technical director and 2019 KM Fabrics, Inc. Technical Production award winner Latiana (LT) Gourzong at USITT19 in Louisville to discuss mentors, post-award winning excitement, and future career plans. See where LT is now at the end of our conversation!
Talk a little bit about winning the KM Fabrics, Inc. Technical Production award
To win the award has been a bit surreal because I look at those who have won it before me and it’s so cool to see who has won since the ’90s. I see names like Alys E. Holden and I’m like, “What if one day I’m as brilliant as Alys E. Holden.” Basically, I don’t want to win this award and then go home and sit on my couch. Now I have to do something great.
Where did you start? What are your aspirations for the next five years?
I started by doing Pippin in high school and playing the trumpet for A Chorus Line and that was my, “What is theatre?” moment. Then I did stage management in high school and actually applied in undergrad to be a stage manager. The person who was interviewing me suggested I be a TD instead based off of what I was saying, and me, not knowing any different, said, “Sure, let’s do that.”
Then I went to Rutgers for undergrad and then took three years off. I did TD and ATD summer stocks and Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. Then I was at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Washington and Lee University, and then went to Yale for graduate school.
I decided to do that because I was looking for what my next move needed to be. I didn’t think I was qualified enough to apply for the job that I wanted to apply for at that moment in life.
I want to stay in regional theater. That’s my five-year goal.
How do you find a work-life balance?
I tend to “pick a thing.” I have to schedule time for myself. For example, I’ll say, “What TV series am I watching this week?” And I schedule that so I can do it because if I don’t schedule it, it’s going to fall to the wayside and I don’t want it to fall to the wayside. And if it does, two weeks will go by and I’ll say, “Why am I so miserable?” Then I realize I skipped the thing that I was supposed to do for myself, which is always fascinating!
There have been times in my life where I realized I wasn’t having fun so I would go home and try to figure out what was wrong, and then go back. Basically, if I’m not having fun then why am I there?
Who are some of your mentors?
My two original mentors were from high school. Tom Collins, who was the leader of our stage crew, and Jim Soldo, who was our marching band director. Back in those days, I was in jazz band and we were playing a trumpet solo. We stopped and Mr. Soldo looked at me and said, “Don’t be tense, be intense.” Ever since then, I say to myself, “Don’t be tense, be intense.” You just have to do the thing and keep going. Then, going into undergrad, the TD professor Tim Pickens was my go-to “human” in that regard. At times there would be a bunch of stupid stuff happening and I would go to his office and say, “Tim, what’s happening?” and it was just nice to talk to him.
What value do you find in USITT?
My first time attending was during undergrad. I remember walking on the Expo Floor and realizing I can go up to Rose Brand and ask about this thing that I saw on their website. It’s great that I can talk to a human expert about it. It’s really about the human connection. It’s understood that if you come to USITT, you’re okay with answering people’s questions, otherwise you wouldn’t have come. The anxiety of thinking, “Is it ok if I ask him why they have this whole connection on this piece of stock hardware?” That anxiety is gone because that’s literally why they’re there, to answer those questions.
Also, it’s the aspect of coming back and seeing someone you sat next to at a session the previous year and getting to reconnect. You’re by no means best friends for life, but you’re still interested in what they’re doing.
Since chatting with LT at USITT19 in Louisville, some big changes have happened! LT spent part of the summer season as the Associate of the Mainstage at Williamstown Theatre Festival and is currently living in Minneapolis, MN, working as the Associate TD at the Guthrie Theater.