Spotlight on the Artist: Designer Jeff Brown

For every production, we spotlight one of the hardworking artists who is helping to bring it to life. For Peter and the Starcatcher, we are spotlighting Scenic and Lighting Designer Jeff Brown.

Jeff has been involved with theater for 30 years, but unlike many theater artists he had no connection to theater until he was an adult.

After high school, Jeff spent years in the Army as a paratrooper and later went to work at a factory manufacturing freezers. Despite earning positions of greater responsibility at the factory, he knew within a short time that it wasn’t where he wanted to stay, so he quit and enrolled at a community college.

When Jeff was nearly finished with his two-year degree, he learned that he still needed to complete some communication or arts credits. The only options available to him were Public Speaking or Stagecraft, so with an aversion to public speaking, Jeff took his chances with stagecraft.

That stagecraft course launched Jeff onto a path that he had never considered. He uncovered a true aptitude for technical theater – and a camaraderie amongst the community of theater artists – that he hadn’t expected, and he decided to stay in school until he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Theater (technical emphasis) at Moorhead State University.

Jeff’s skills in both design and construction, combined with his experiences, propelled him into leadership roles right away. He spent the next 10 years managing performing arts facilities at multiple high schools and colleges, serving as their scenic and lighting designers and technical directors.

In 2007, Jeff was hired as Production Manager for Duluth Playhouse. Over the following 7 years, he led the design teams and coordinated all production aspects for another 100+ mainstage, children’s, and Underground productions, while also doing freelance designs for other local and regional theater companies.

In 2014, his career path took a curve when he was asked to consult on, design, and fabricate the learning environment and exhibits for the new Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota (Mankato). This opportunity revealed a new way that Jeff could use his passions for design and fabrication. With this renewed energy, Jeff formed BrownKnows Design (BKD), and his exhibit design and fabrication portfolio now includes multiple children’s museums and historical centers throughout Minnesota and the Midwest.

Despite a busy schedule with BKD, Jeff maintains his involvement with Duluth Playhouse whenever possible because the intensely collaborative nature of theater and that unique shared experience continues to feed his creative spirit. Peter is Jeff’s 49th lighting design and 22nd scenic design for the Playhouse, and overall his 144th Playhouse production.