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Raffaele Castaldo

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MA Arts Politics Class of 2013

MFA Design (Scenic), New York University
BA Politics, New York University

Raffaele is a New York based scenic designer, events designer and educator whose work has influenced audiences, clients and students worldwide.

For the last 17 years, he’s alternated between professional and academic theatre as a professor of theatre arts at the College of New Rochelle and Lehman College. Incorporating the study of major musicals and dramas in preparation for designing and producing them, he instructs his students through the entire process, and as a result has designed and produced dozens of shows that include Metamorphoses, Into the Woods, Cabaret, The Hot L Baltimore, Oleanna, Amahl and the Night Visitors and, more recently, Ragtime, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nine and Pirates!. During this time he has been resident scenic designer for several companies.

Concurrently, Raffaele is lead designer with Michael Simons Associates, San Francisco, in the development of international corporate, civic and not-for-profit events. Projects have brought him to expansive venues in Reno, San Jose, San Francisco, and Shenzen, China. Other event venues in New York include Radio City Music Hall, Javits Center, Waldorf Astoria, Hyatt Regency, and a special celebratory mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Raffaele’s film work is most notably represented by the NFDC/India’s 2000 feature, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, for which he was Art Director-USA. The film won three National Film Awards in India, including for Art Direction.

Raffaele is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829/IATSE.

What drew you to the MA Arts Politics program?

After working as a professional Scenic Designer for over 20 years, I found that I was wanting more. Realizing that my "creative batteries" needed recharging, I began to see what opportunities existed. While I served as Co-Chair of the Tisch East Alumni Council, I had a long talk with one of my colleagues who was currently an APP student. Talking with her plus subsequent research into APP, and having the opportunity for a one-on-one conversation with Randy Martin, I decided to apply.

In my growth as an artist, it's the best decision I've ever made.

How do you describe or identify your practice/ work?

I'm a designer-artist, working in different mediums and styles, who constantly looks for the intersection between art, politics, and the common good. Also keeping in mind that a generously large cup of espresso and my two dogs keep me well grounded.

How did your experience in the program shape your work?

The program changed the way I approach my artwork .

I started to think about the political aspect of my work, changing the way I design for theatre. I research, read, and envision with a better, more critical mindset.

Outside of theatre, the program gave me the push to create artwork that can stand on it's own no matter how controversial the subject; even challenging the mores of the current political administration.

What are you doing now?

I'm working on a series of artworks titled "Common Ground: Equalizing the Voices". Under the concept that we are all of "one people," the art will explore the power of the spoken word in a multicultural aspect, represented in large scale glicee prints. From the conventional to the unconventional, the poet to the philosopher, the activist to the politician, the work will endeavor to put their words on common ground to let the viewer decide the worth of it's weight.

I'm freelancing; I'm preparing design concepts for a musical next spring at LaGuardia High School in Manhattan, as well as a few events in Nevada and California.

As an offshoot of my freelancing, I am working with an artistic director of a national regional theatre and an author/television producer to produce a few different theatrical shows on civil rights as both a small touring show and a main stage production.

Lastly, I am being interviewed for a theatrical design textbook about my experiences as a scenic designer, written by a fellow alumna from NYU Tisch Design.