Oak Park native Jeffrey D. Kmiec is a multiple Jeff Award-winning scenic designer whose work has been seen at Paramount, Drury Lane Oakbrook, and Marriott theaters, among others. His latest project is scenic design for Raven Theatre’s world premiere of “The Gentleman Caller” by Philip Dawkins, March 28-May 13.
A: I grew up in theater. My mom is a scenic designer. I always like to joke that I had no choice, but when you grow up in that environment, it’s hard to not want to do that — to transform a space into a whole other world.
Q: What was your most challenging scenic design project?
A: “Christmas Story” at the Paramount. It’s a movie musical. There are about 20 locations. You have to zip back and forth between them, and it’s a show that should be entirely about transitions. It took a lot of specific planning with Nick Bowling, who directed it, on how the scenes should flow into each other and how the pieces should move. It was a choreography of scenic elements.
Q: You’ve won Jeff Awards for scenic design three years in a row. Does that put extra pressure on you?
A: We like to say it’s not about the awards but it definitely is nice to be recognized for the work that I do. I don’t think it puts pressure on me, though.
Q: What’s your favorite memory of growing up in Oak Park?
A: The extracurricular theater programs. Oak Park does a really phenomenal job of supporting all the arts. It’s a huge part of their approach to education. All the way from fourth grade, I was involved in CAST summer theater through Percy Julian Middle School, and Oak Park and River Forest High School theater.
Q: Do you have a favorite Oak Park restaurant?
A: It’s a tie between two — Cucina Paradiso and Maya Del Sol.
Q: What was your favorite vacation?
A: Two years ago, I did a trip through Italy and the Greek Islands. The variety of culture, the experiences, the food, the museums was just spectacular.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: I have a dog. She’s 2. She’s a beagle mix, and she’s a princess for sure.
Q: What’s your most treasured possession?
A: I have a program that was signed by Garrison Keillor when I got to meet him after one of his shows.
Q: What’s your favorite saying?
A: All the time in theater you have to make on-the-spot decisions. A lot of times you make choices and say: We’ll call it art.