But Definitely a Pair
Barbara E.R. Lucas
Unconventional and imaginative. Innovative and creative. David and Debra Krajec. They go together, but they are nowhere near the same.
David and Debra Krajec may be the first husband and wife duo to serve on USITT's Board of Directors, but rarely do they spend time together at USITT"s Annual Conference & Stage Expo, except perhaps at Board meetings. They have similar but parallel interests, and they take every opportunity to expand their networks and still reinforce strong and continuing friendships.
Each has taken leadership roles within the organization -- David as Education Commissioner and Debra as Costume Design & Technology Commissioner -- and each is a strong advocate and supporter of the Midwest Regional Section, which each has led at different times.
In their professional lives, Debra has been at Marquette University since 1984, enriching her professional life with costume designs for regional and national theatres. She has designed extensively for Marquette, where she also has directed more than 20 plays, and has garnered professional stage direction credits to go with her work as an Equity actress.
David spent more than 19 years at Cardinal Stritch University, while accepting outside design work as well, but last summer decided to take a new direction. Now he's busier than ever, but in a different way, working for Mainstage Theatrical Supply's Milwaukee, Wisconsin office. "When I thought about making a change, I loved the fact that I was moving to a new experience, not moving away from something," he said. As a system sales specialist, he is still helping people learn, but now he can also help them decide what products will best suit their needs. He also now can create systems and treatments for a much broader range of presentation spaces, from clubs to churches and everything in between.
Even with the intensity of his work in the corporate world, David plans to continue designing sets and lighting or doing fight choreography as time permits.
Life has never been static for this couple who met at USITT when David was at Texas Christian University and was "dragged" to the Minneapolis conference in 1987 by his colleague LaLonnie Lehman. Debra was rooming that year with Ms. Lehman, her teacher and mentor. Somehow, David and Debra skipped the banquet and spent the night talking, and the next morning, before her shuttle was to leave for the airport, Debra found David wearing "a suit, tie and matching suspenders" decked out to take her to breakfast. Mention is made, as they recite this story together, of former companions who also were attending USITT that year. They never had a chance.
Romantics will jump to the conclusion that the course of love should run smoothly, but these two people were already busy and there were productions to mount and designs to complete. Somehow, the following summer found David back in the Midwest, where he had lived from 1978 to 1985. A two-week visit turned into a part-time job performing at a Renaissance Fair. As a jouster on horseback, "he was my knight in shining armor," Debra recalls. They were engaged by Thanksgiving, and married the following July.
One great advantage is that each understands the other's "terrible" schedule, and both find ways to assist in making those schedules work together.
In the almost 20 years since, they have compiled an impressive list of projects. One recent example, this summer found them in Ireland working in collaboration on an Original Theatre Project between the Department of Performing Arts at Marquette University (Debra's school) and The Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin. David designed the set and props, and served as fight choreographer and Deb was costume designer for the premiere of Poor Tom.
They, and 18 students from Marquette, were in Ireland for three weeks including opening the show at Smock Alley Theatre. "That was a slice -- let me tell you," said Debra. "We had to comb the streets of Dublin to find everything while the students rehearsed. Did you know the lumber stores don't deliver in Dublin??"
A highlight was meeting the Governor of Wisconsin and the United States Ambassador to Ireland at a reception thrown by the Gaiety School. Not such a highlight was the 60 degree weather and persistent rain.
This fall, Poor Tom was re-mounted at Marquette -- for which David re-designed the set to fit the space. It is now going to the KCACTF regional festival which Marquette is hosting in January. Discerning readers can easily guess who is heavily involved in planning the festival, too.
They are both passionate about USITT, and the way it benefits professionals and students. "That's one of the things we love to do together," they say, even though "we probably saw each other more at that first conference than ever since," David noted. And they're sure of having an instant roommate.