It was the mid-1970s, and 19-year-old Lynn Muniz needed a summer job. The Trumbull native was studying to be an art teacher, but couldn’t find work.
One day at the Westport Country Playhouse, she saw a group of young people painting sets. She joined them, spent the rest of the summer there — and got sucked into the theater world.
Lynn did not become an art teacher. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in painting and a minor in theater, she went to Broadway. She’s been a set painter — officially, a “scenic artist” — ever since.
“Amadeus,” “Starlight Express,” “Lion King,” “Hairspray,” “Hair,” “West Side Story” — Lynn worked on them all.
She also worked on feature films like “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Promises! Promises!” And she’s painted sets at the Metropolitan Opera.
A couple of years ago Lynn told a colleague she hoped to get that long-forgotten teaching certificate. She wanted to work in a public school.
The friend was Reid Thompson — scenic designer for Staples Players shows like “Guys and Dolls” and “Twelve Angry Men.” He hooked her up with Players director David Roth, and associate director Kerry Long.
Two years ago, they asked Lynn to run a painting workshop for “Romeo and Juliet.” She had fun; the tech crew did too. A new partnership was born.
This winter, Lynn lent her talents to “Little Shop of Horrors.” The Players’ production opens this Friday. “We’ve done some texture technique and lettering that’s cool,” she says. “And we’re using some of the huge ‘Guys and Dolls’ set, which is also fun.”
Lynn is awed by the Players’ tech crew talent — and work ethic. “They’re there on weekday evenings and Saturdays,” she says. “They’re like sponges — so anxious to learn. Once I give them some direction, I let them go off and they do it.”
Lynn’s move from Broadway scenic artist to public school art teacher has been inspired, in part, by the Staples students.
“The older I get, the more jaded I become,” she says. “These kids take me out of that. There always something they can learn — and always something I can learn from them.”
(“Little Shop of Horrors” will be presented March 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.StaplesPlayers.com; by calling 203-341-1310; in the Staples main lobby from 12:30-2 p.m. March 15-19, or at the door as available 30 minutes before curtain.)