Roberta – Set Designer
Have you taken part in an event like this before?
This is the first time for me. I have to say that as a set designer I mainly work on theatre productions but when I was asked to design the set for TEDx I said yes immediately!
What inspired you to take part in TEDxWandsworth?
I love TED because I think It’s brilliant that in just a few minutes you can get a clear and detailed idea about a specific topic. We really have little time on our hands nowadays and sometimes we get a lot information and words but nothing worthy to remember. TED allows us to learn new things in just a few minutes – I think this is genius!
What technique will you use to make your design interesting?
I think the key is: to get the design to disappear. I strongly believe that a good set is one you don’t notice but at the same time you’d feel the space was empty without it. The soul of the theatre are the actors, while for TED it’s the speakers, so the set must tell a story without distracting the audience from the speaker.
Which TED talk would you say has contributed to your life?
Without any doubt “Do schools kill creativity” by Sir Ken Robinson . It really touched me because I lived that topic. The speaker gave different examples about people that had problems at school when they were little, like short attention span or who were just different in some way. I really related to this story because when I was little and until three years ago I used to stutter very much. So my teachers gave me an IQ test when I was 13. The result was that I was “stupid” and they suggested I go to a short professional course because I wouldn’t be capable of going to university. Thanks to my father I went to Academy of Brera (Italy) where I got a first class honours degree, and I’ve also got an MA with Arena di Verona. That TED talk is absolutely precious for me because I didn’t feel alone.
If you could pick one thing you wish you knew when you were younger what would it be?
“Believe in your dreams because nothing is impossible.” Everybody has a wonderful potential but can only reveal that ourselves. We find many excuses about why we are not able to open that door. We can be the most powerful enemy towards our own selves.
When did you decide that this was the career route you wanted to take? What convinced you?
I studied set design at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera but I didn’t believe that I could really do this job. So, after university, I applied for an internship at La Scala Theatre – sadly, I wasn’t selected. I thought that was a sign that this job is not meant for me. I found a job as a writer for a national radio station and then as a secretary for a private investigation agency and waitress at the weekend. In 2008, I was depressed because I wasn’t doing what I really loved. But the problem was I didn’t know what I wanted. I am a Buddhist and that helped me to look deep in my life.
I started to challenge myself and reapplied for the internship at La Scala Theatre and this time was chosen. A year later I was Head Set Designer for a production in Manaus, Brazil. My experience was so incredible that I wrote and published a book about my experience: Quando il Brutto Anatroccolo Comincia a Credere. (When the Ugly Duckling begins to Believe). One day I wish to translate it in English.
What is one lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Never ever give up. When you pursue your dream there are many moments where you find lots of reasons to give up, never ever do that. Never go for “plan B” either, we should strive to fulfil our destiny regardless of setbacks, that’s what we’re here to do.