Q&A with Doran Konja, USITT 2017 Gateway Mentee and scenic design and stage directing major at Western Michigan University.

Tell me a bit about your background

I’m from the Metro Detroit area and I currently go to school at Western Michigan University where I’m studying scenic design and stage directing. As time moves on, I’m leaning more towards stage directing. I graduate next year and plan to move to Chicago.

Any specific company you’d like to work for?

I’m very interested in Steppenwolf because of the diversity and inclusion program that they have, but I’m a big fan of the Chicago scene because of all the new works there.

How did you decide on your major of scenic design and stage directing?

In high school, I was very involved with our theatre company and director. I ended up working in the shop and as time went on, I wanted to help design the sets. The director let me design one of our competition shows and after doing that, I felt drawn to it and wanted to explore it more.

How were you introduced to the Gateway Program?

I found out about Gateway while looking through the USITT website and the scholarship options to attend the Conference.

Tell me about your experience as a 2017 Gateway Mentee

It was my first year in the Gateway Program and my first year at USITT. The whole program made me feel whole. When you see a diverse group of people, it makes you feel more secure about what you’re doing in life. It makes you see that you can achieve anything. Being able to meet the pros who are doing amazing things at companies you can only dream about right now that you feel a sense of kinship with, it’s fulfilling.

What were some of the highlights of the Gateway Program and your first Conference?

The two best parts were having a mentoring experience with Josafath Reynoso and all the advice that he gave me as well as the portfolio review where they set me up with two professional working production managers who went through my portfolio and gave me advice.

What advice were you able to take away from the Conference?

In the portfolio review, they pair you up with someone who works in a theatre near you. My first reviewer was the production manager from the Goodman Theatre. He gave me tons of advice not just on my portfolio, but on how to present myself professionally and how to get started in Chicago. That is something that is going to stick with me for a very long time.

Tell me about your relationship with your Gateway mentor

Josafath utilizes USITT to network. Watching him and the way he talks with people was great. I would go to a session and I’d meet up with him when we both had available time slots to discuss. I definitely plan to keep in touch with him.

Why do you believe the Gateway Program is important?

I’ve met people who didn’t feel comfortable in their environment because they felt like they were becoming tokenized. The Gateway Program helps you to open-up and hear how theatres are fixing those issues and how people are pushing for change and fighting for it. It’s inspirational. It is purely inspirational and it has changed me.

What does USITT mean to you?

To me USITT is a huge networking opportunity. It helps you to reach out and meet more professionals you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Especially those who live in different areas across the country.

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