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Set for success: Fourth-year senior Nettie shares her journey through Theatre Design & Production

From designing a striking set for “The Women of Lockerbie” to getting accepted into the college of her dreams, this talented student artist is dreaming big.

Picture of senior student Nettie James-Drost with long brown hair in front of a large city at night.

When Nettie James-Drost looks back on her Interlochen journey, she sees four years of growth and excitement. The senior Theatre Design & Production major has created memorable sets, made friends with students in a variety of other majors, and charted a course toward a future in interior design. Here, she gives us an inside look into her journey.  

From helping out backstage to designing her own sets

Growing up, Nettie looked to her two creative parents for inspiration. Her mother taught dance at Interlochen, and Nettie frequently found herself helping out backstage with shows like The Nutcracker. Her father had a talent for building, which he freely shared with his daughter.

“I saw how devoted my mom was to art and how her choreography told a story on stage,” Nettie remembers. “She was a big inspiration for me, especially when I started getting interested in interior design and designing. I also grew up building things with my dad, like my own headboard for my bed. So construction, along with art, blended into set design and interior design for me. I always felt that it was really necessary to be in a space that you felt comfortable in.”

Nettie came to Interlochen as a freshman, excited to learn as much as she could about theatre design & production. She worked hard, and has several production designs under her belt now. Her most recent set was an especially memorable one for last year’s production of The Women of Lockerbie. The play is a true story about the Pan Am Flight 103 crash over Lockerbie, Scotland, and how the local community dealt with the aftermath of the tragedy. The play deals with themes of love and beauty in the midst of great grief. Nettie knew that she wanted to create something that would have a powerful effect on the audience.

“I built a big tree that touched the top of the theatre, out of plane wreckage. It was like the symbolic community building up after the tragedy happened,” says Nettie. “We went to the scrap yard early, we got all of the scrap metal, and we built it. It was really cool to see the entire major helping me build this thing. The actors interacted with it, and it helped tell the story.”

A group of students stand on stage beside a large metal tree-shaped set piece.

Cast members of The Women of Lockerbie pose near Nettie's set piece made from airplane parts (far right).

Working with professionals and making new friends

As an Arts Academy student, Nettie has enjoyed working with visiting artists like Peter Lawrence, a Tony Award-winning stage manager. She’s also enjoyed learning how to dive deep into the emotional core of a play, a skill she’s exploring in her favorite class this year, Fundamentals of Design.

“We start off by reading the play, and then we come back the next day to class and we talk about it. Then we get another day to work on these emotional responses and visual metaphors, which are basically a picture or a piece of art that shows exactly what you were feeling when you read the show,” she says.

One of her favorite parts of attending Interlochen has been the artistic community she found there. 

It's really, really inspiring because you're able to be around people who have the same love for their art as you do for yours. It's such a tight-knit community. You never feel alone here. You're always with people and it's always fun and interesting.

Nettie James-Drost, fourth-year Arts Academy senior

“It's really, really inspiring because you're able to be around people who have the same love for their art as you do for yours,” she says. “It's such a tight-knit community. You never feel alone here. You're always with people and it's always fun and interesting.”

She’s especially enjoyed learning from students in other majors. One of her close friends is an acting major, and the two enjoy reading plays together.

“I can give her my thoughts on how I’d design for it, and then she can give me her thoughts on it with her acting brain, so it's really interesting to do that,” she says.

What’s on deck for Nettie next year? She’s already been accepted into her dream school—Savannah College of Art and Design. There, she’ll be able to major in interior design and join the school’s equestrian team. She’s excited for her next steps, and says that Interlochen has prepared her well.

“I think that if you're considering coming to Interlochen you should definitely do it. The things you're going to experience here, the people you're going to meet, and where it's going to take you are so, so, so important.”

Learn more about Interlochen Arts Academy.