David Korins in the scene shop at UMass Amherst

The Art of Leaning In

David Korins's unique style of experiential storytelling brings Broadway's "Hamilton" and the new "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience" to life.
David Korins in the scene shop at UMass Amherst

"I showed up at UMass Amherst and had no sense that being a designer for a theater was even a craft that I could do for the rest of my life," recalls David Korins '99. "But once I had found that, I became incredibly focused on anything and everything that I could do to grow my career."

Korins's willingness to say "yes" to a multitude of opportunities at UMass laid the groundwork for his path to becoming an Emmy Award-winning creative director; his multidimensional, experiential storytelling repertoire ranges from Broadway's Hamilton to set designs for world-renowned recording artists such as Lady Gaga and Elton John.

"People don't want just a straight-ahead theatrical production, rock concert, or television show," he says. "Theatrical offerings are starting to become fully immersive. It's going to blur the line between what's real and what's not."

In that vein, Korins has brought his expertise to the new Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, an interactive, 3D exhibit that brings its audience into 300 of the artist’s most iconic paintings. 

"Van Gogh was created by Massimiliano Siccardi, a talented content creator in Italy, and he's been doing projection and immersive projection design for 30 years," Korins notes. "When the producers wanted to grow the experience, they came to me because I'm an omni-directional world builder."

That world-building expertise started on campus, when Korins got his hands on the tools and materials needed to construct a set, establish a mood, and create something new from ground up.

"I learned how to mix paint. I learned how to use most of the power tools that we use in the industry. And in the end, we built something where nothing was before," he recalls. "The thing that really balanced my time was the fact that I was getting real-world experiences and an education."

Gleaning from his time at UMass Amherst, Korins encourages those taking their first steps on their journeys to say "yes" to new opportunities, and to not be afraid to take leap of faith.

"Lean in and be curious," he remarks. "This is such a sprawling and impressive place—you can find the answer to who you're going to be and what you're going to do."

This article was published in January 2022.

Lean In Further

Explore more ways to say "yes" on campus.