Please explain what just happened.

I woke up and thought, oh no, got to answer those TNB questions, I think I should have done that by now.


What is your earliest memory?

We used to live in this old house in Singapore that had large windows that were very low to the floor. They had to be kept open all the time because there was no air conditioning. My mother was terrified of these windows because it would be so easy for a toddler to fall out of them, so she used to use a dog leash to make sure I would stay in bed when I was having a nap and she could get stuff done around he house. Well, my favorite toy, for some reason that is unclear to me, was in my brother’s room. So I would just un-clip the leash and go to his room and say, “Wanna play farm?” I think I was about 2.

If you weren’t a set and costume designer what other profession would you choose?

Oh, rock star, definitely. Or a historian. It’s so hard to choose! There are actually so many things that interest me and I can see myself doing them and thoroughly enjoying them. I wasn’t one of those people who grew up thinking, “I want to be in theater!” I just kind of fell into it and really enjoyed it and seemed to be pretty good at it. Same with teaching really. I actually applied to college for architecture, but switched plans half way through the process, much to my parent’s dismay.I will often read about someone, or meet someone, and think, “Wow, they have a cool job, that would be awesome.” Like those two guys on “Myth Busters.”  How cool is that?

Oh, and theoretical physicist.

Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.

Describe them? Hmmm. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something, um, green.

What verb best describes you?



What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

Relax, one day you will own a dog of your own.

What are the steps you take to regain your composure?

I hang up on the customer service rep.

Define “success.”

Enjoying what you do every day, and making at least enough money doing it to be secure.

From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

There was this T.V. documentary series when I was growing up in England called Connections. Each show would start with some invention in the past, the plough for example, and follow the path of its impact on science, invention, even thought, up through history to the modern age. It was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen and to this day remains my favorite show of all time. One of the reasons I like designing so much, is the research. Not just visual, but the whole context of the world in which the play or film takes place.

The other day in Costume History class I was going on about 13th century European clothing. Well, we got into a discussion about latrines and waste disposal, or the lack thereof. I pointed out that something you never really see in film or in plays is the filth. Everyone is throwing everything out into the street, and now you’re walking through it in your nice cote-hardie, made of wool, so it’s hard to wash. I mean, think of what the lower six inches of the hemline must have been like!

I find this kind of thing fascinating, and yes, inspiring. To see the connections throughout history and throughout all of our various human endeavors.  Did you know that there’s a theory that one of the many reasons the Roman Empire fell is that the math got too hard? Think of doing the budget for your empire with roman numerals, you’d want the Visigoths to invade.



What change do you want to be in the world?

In the whole world? I don’t think I really aspire to that, not many people in Tibet have seen my work. I’m a bit of realist when it comes to stuff like that. But, in the worlds I touch, I hope my work inspires an emotion in the audience, whatever the context of the production calls for. And more importantly, I hope my teaching inspires my students to go out and be responsible, take initiative and have fun.

Are you pro- or anti-emoticon? Please explain.

I’m really only in favor of the smiley. I can’t draw monkeys and aliens and stuff. But the smiley, what a great invention. I can request outrageous things from my technical director, completely disagree with someone’s point of view, or be totally snippy in an email, but as long as you sign it with a smiley, everything is ok!

Just imagine:

“Franklin! omg! So sry bout Pearl Harbor, jk jk!yamamato :-)”

“Isoroku, wtf! See you at midway :-)”

How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

Well, working in theater and film, I can think of about 3 ways right off the top of my head, but I’ll go with a fun one. I was a zombie extra in the re-make of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, directed by Tom Savini. Tom Savini did the make-up for Creepshow, Ed Harris was in Creepshow. Ed Harris was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon!

What makes you feel most guilty?

Most guilty? You think I’ll tell you that? But, back in Singapore, I had a little fish bowl with some goldfish. One day, while my mother was cleaning the tank out, and her back was turned, I decided to help out by cleaning the fish. I’ve always felt bad about those fish.

Please list three things you never leave home without.


2.I can’t think of anything else I “never” leave home without, really.

What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Don’t get married, it will ruin your career. Honestly! From a professor in college. I ignored him.

What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

Spit out the mushroom.

What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?

Betraying those you love, especially kids. There’s no way for kids to understand “extenuating circumstances.” They just feel it for the rest of their lives.

Although Ephialtes’ betrayal of the Spartans at Thermopylae is a close second.

Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?

Oh, Survivor definitely. But I’d want them to make it more real. Like strand everyone remotely, wire them up with vital sign monitors, and see how long they last. Maybe release a few wolves every now and then for the ratings.

And do it in the taiga.

What do you want to know?

Everything. Really. I’m just fascinated by stuff. I wish I had more time to read. I don’t usually listen to much music in my car, I listen to lectures I download from iTunes U. There’s a fantastic one called the History of the International System which I’ve listened to twice now. Currently I’ve got a Berkley lecture on the Roman Empire, one on economics and one from Yale about nanotechnology and quantum computing.

What would you like your Last Words to be?

OK, I know everything now, you can switch me off.

Please explain what will happen.

At some point, even all the black holes will evaporate and there will be these loose stray particles, so scattered that each atom will be bigger than today’s known universe. Then those decay eventually, I think, and the universe will have completely run out of all thermodynamic energy. Nothing left, except maybe an old Queen’s Greatest Hits tape.

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DAVID HENDERSON has designed both scenery and costumes for many theatre companies across the country including the Seattle Group Theater, Honolulu Theater For Youth, Tacoma Actor's Guild, Pittsburgh's City Theater, American Studio Theater, the Bronx Opera Company and Inside Broadway. In addition, he designed the costumes for the award-winning short films, Ménage à trois and production designed the short [film] musical, I Love You, I’m Sorry, and I’ll Never Do It Again.

David is also a filmmaker in his own right, and his short film, Ghost Story, won Best Short at the FAIF International Film Festival in L.A. and his other short, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dumpling, won the audience Choice Award at the Brooklyn International Kids Film Fest. His most recent work to grace the film festival circuit is, On The Rocks: The Unsolved Mysteries of Jack and Sal. Episode 2, The Rusty Trombone.

He is an associate professor and Director of Scenic Design at Hofstra University where he teaches scene design, scenic art and other design related courses. Before coming to New York, David taught various drama courses at Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham College, and the University of Pittsburgh.

6 responses to “21 Questions with David Henderson”

  1. Liane says:

    O Susan what a wonderful “article” and humorous. Very interesting to hear where he has lived. A true mann of the World and to end up in NYC carreer wise must be the creal on his cake . You certainly have awonderful partner.

  2. Hahaha. I was going to write something like “Never mind the Visigoths, it’s really the Arabs you want here” but the Queen’s Greatest Hits is a wonderful touch (we share a favourite as far as books are concerned).

  3. I’m gonna help you out with a few links – because you’re so damn humble. 🙂

    Your website:

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dumpling:

    Lego Hedda Gabler: (be sure to stay tuned for Bryan Adams!!)

    Your brilliant (BRILLIANT!) storyboards for LULLABY:

  4. David, your work is breathtaking. You have a lot of great insight and I’m so happy you are here, with us, on TNB.

  5. David Henderson says:

    Thanks all, for your comments, I appreciate it.

    Kimberly, thanks for the links, I know I am horrible at self-promotion.

    Nathalie, glad to know there’s another Good Omen’s fan here!

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