Stephen Elms

Digital Creative Strategist, Consultant, Designer, and Manager in London, U.K.

When people learn of my experience they’re intrigued and want to know more… immediately followed by how I got from A to B (theatrical stagehand to UX research and design). For them it seems a unique path. For me, it’s who I am doing what I love.
What started about 25 years ago, a passion of theatre production in my high school drama department, afforded me the opportunity to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Design and Production. With my focus on lighting design and electrics, I worked on musicals, operas, and dance. In parallel with my studies, I became a member of IATSE Local 635 and cut my teeth working crew when acts like Nine Inch Nails, Garth Brooks, The Dave Matthews Band, Reba McEntire, and Elton John came to the local coliseum. 
Upon graduation New York City beckoned. Upon arriving I quickly landed a role with Roundabout Theatre working across a number of their off-broadway productions. Less than a year later, I was on pink contract for my first Broadway show, RENT. Over the next five years I moved up and down the Great White Way and held positions on Dame Edna, Riverdance, Noises Off, and Disney’s Aida. 
Despite loving a career backstage, I felt it was time for a new challenge. Fortunately there was no need to leave Manhattan as I was accepted to the MFA program for Theatre Management and Producing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. I took full advantage of everything the university had to offer enrolling in courses in business, law, film, political science, and audited a class in architectural historic preservation as I researched my thesis.
Weeks before graduation, I was hired by Serino Coyne, the industry leader in theatrical advertising, after a successful internship. During my tenure I managed accounts for multiple Tony Award® winning Broadway productions, Lincoln Center Theater, and The Metropolitan Opera. However, many months later the American economy had toppled over a cliff in the fall of 2008 and the agency was forced to make cuts. Luckily, I was quickly on firm ground again landing at Disney Theatrical Group working on their Broadway properties, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid. 
Over the next few years, as the economy was recovering, I found my diverse background allowed me to bring a unique perspective to digital marketing, strategy, and design. As I freelanced as a consultant, I was able to work with a range of clients on a staggering number of diverse projects for Disney Theatrical Productions, Ars Nova, The Public Theater, Nicholas & Lence Communications, in conjunction with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Pinnacle Realty of New York.
While it’s great to be your own boss, when given the chance to work with a creative and industry leader like Blue Man Group, you take it. That experience and network resulted in 87AM hiring me to move to London to open their UK office in 2015 and manage their West End clients. With London my new home, and 87AM winding down operations in the UK, I shifted from advertising and media to focus on website design and deployment with Feast Creative.
Through it all, I’ve found my background in design to be a reliable foundation for everything I do. It informs so many decisions about how a project needs to communicate to an audience, be it on stage or online.  As my career has evolved, so has the technology around us, with screens and devices now ubiquitous. How people engage with them and how information shared is fascinating. A pivot from design and marketing to user experience and human computer interaction seems the natural next step in my evolving career. To build additional skills in this area, I’m currently enrolled online in the University of Michigan’s School of Information micromasters course through EdX on User Experience (UX) Research and Design. Meanwhile, offline I regularly attend local events, including panel discussions hosted by UX Crunch and Tech Circus. 
That’s my story so far, and I’m excited to see what the next chapter will be.

Columbia University in the City of New York
MFA, Theatre Management & Producing
2005 – 2008
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
BFA, Lighting Design
1994 – 1998
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