Alex Volckhausen ’93
It had been my life’s goal to be an architect, and Princeton was one of the only schools that had a four-year program instead of a five-year program. The design program was notable because it allowed you to do a thesis that was very different from the traditional 100-page paper. There was a small written component, but the bulk of the thesis was a design project. Having attended Stuyvesant High School in New York, where I had some classes in architecture and drafting, I was excited to continue to develop the skills I had already learned. Princeton’s program was unique, and that’s why I chose the School of Architecture.
It was during my senior year that I began to look past the possibility of a career in architecture. My thesis adviser, Juliet Richardson, who had always encouraged me to think outside the box in my design work, also taught me to do so in making my future career path. I did not need to become an architect to utilize the skills that were developed in my undergraduate training. The School of Architecture had taught me that I could work hard and succeed, and there was nothing to stop me from changing my career goals. With the encouragement of Juliet, I decided to become a stage manager for theater, which was my real passion.
From studio to the stage
I had been a stage manager, lighting designer, and prop designer for the Triangle Club, BodyHype Dance Company, and Theatre Intime. I was able to use those experiences to garner an internship at Playwrights Horizons, an off-Broadway company, and then at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, one of the top summer theater companies in the country.
After a year of internships, I got very lucky and was given my first professional job at Playwrights Horizons. I joined Actors’ Equity in 1995 (the union governing actors and stage managers) and stage-managed several off- and off-off-Broadway shows in countless tiny theaters, Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, and the Atlantic Theater Company, as well as spending eight seasons with Williamstown. I also have stage-managed more than 15 Broadway shows including: The Scottsboro Boys; Promises, Promises; Avenue Q; Next to Normal; Guys and Dolls; All My Sons; The Little Dog Laughed; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; Dracula: The Musical; Flower Drum Song; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Hedda Gabler; 42nd Street; and Three Sisters. I also spent a year or so on the national tour of The Lion King. As of the spring of 2011, I am at the Richard Rogers Theatre with a new play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams. I stage-manage corporate shows for FOX, Novo Nordisk, Warner Brothers, and the Clinton Global Initiative. I also have done many concerts and benefits for the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The School of Architecture provided me with a strong work ethic and the ability to think on my feet. The communication skills that were developed in design juries have been invaluable in my interactions with actors, directors, and designers. I also learned how to be flexible in my point of view and think within the context of a situation. I was able to pursue a course of study that had interested me since childhood and then, with the knowledge and confidence I received at Princeton, move on to a completely different career that is my passion.