Seven Questions with Jo Winiarski, Scenic Designer for “She Loves Me”

Beth Fhaner
 | Feb 03, 2020
She Loves Me set
Marlene Martinez, Sam Ludwig, Ricky Abilez, Brian Vaughn and Matthew Henerson on Jo Winiarski's set in She Loves Me.
Jo Winiarski
​Scenic designer Jo Winiarski. Photo by Lloyd Bishop.

When you walk into the Segerstrom Stage for She Loves Me, the first thing you'll notice is ​Maraczek's Parfumerie—a round-fronted building in the center of the stage. Throughout the course of the show, a turntable and moving walls take you inside the shop, to a cafe, an apartment, a work room, a hospital room and other locations. The ingenious design comes from set designer and art director Jo Winiarski, who has designed extensively for off-Broadway theatres and various other New York theatres, in addition to several regional theatres. She also was the original art director on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” for its first five seasons. Additionally, she received an Emmy Award nomination for art direction for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All.” She has an MFA in design from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Prior to the opening of She Loves Me, we caught up with Winiarski to ask her a few questions about her scenic design work for this charming, romantic musical comedy, where much of the action centers on Maraczek’s Parfumerie in 1930s Europe.

What was your inspiration for the set design of She Loves Me?
Winding European streets!

Since the play is set in 1930s Europe, what kind of research did you need to do?
I looked at a lot of old shops in Europe and images from the ’30s. I also was lightly inspired by the film Amélie.

What are the challenges of designing a show like this?
Any show with multiple locations has its challenges such as storage and movement. Other questions that come up include how much story can be told through the right bit of wallpaper or curtain? I think the biggest challenge​ with the Segerstrom Stage space is the width versus the depth of the stage. [EDITOR'S NOTE: the stage is much wider than it is deep.]

What initially captured your interest about She Loves Me?
[Artistic Director David] Ivers and I have done many shows together. I designed a bunch [of productions] with him as the director and, actually, a handful that he was in, so we have a long history of collaboration. I love the music of this show, so that always helps too!

What was your experience like working as the original art director on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” for its first five seasons?
Being the art director from the start of the show was a dream job (I worked episodes 1-844). I learned so much in my ​more than 5 years at NBC. The art department was two of us, me and the production designer. This made for involvement in every visual aspect of the show, as it was just us! We did so many different types of designs while I was there, from the day-to-day looks to band looks to the short films we made. I left to relocate to the Salt Lake City-area and it was one of the harder decisions I have made.

What are some of your favorite productions that you’ve designed for?
Ivers and I did a Taming of the Shrew at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that I think is definitely in my list of favorites. It was set on the boardwalk, loosely Coney Island-inspired, with a rockabilly flair. Being from Jersey, that show hit on an aesthetic and world that really spoke to my heart. I designed a Ferris wheel in the distance for that show that is definitely my favorite piece of scenery ever. I also recently did a production of They Promised Her the Moon at The Old Globe [San Diego] that was a total joy to work on.

What’s next for you?
Next is Hurricane Diane at The Old Globe, directed by James Vazquez. A totally different, and equally fun, challenge.

Learn more about She Loves Me and buy tickets.