College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Designing Worldwide: Meet Dex Edwards in Theatre Arts

from the Daily Mississippi by Houston Cofield

Dex Edwards’ passion for scenic design and directing has taken him to theaters near and far.

Edwards, who has been an associate professor in the University of Mississippi’s theater department for the past 15 years, has designed sets locally, nationally and globally.

“There are directors that I design for around the country that will call me and say ‘I’m doing a show in Toronto,’ and I’ll say ‘I don’t care where the show is, I’ll work with you anywhere,’” Edwards said.

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Dex Edwards

For the show “Comedy of Errors,” which took place in Chicago, Edwards was sent to London with the entire design team to borrow costumes from the Royal Shakespeare Company Theater and to do their concept design meetings.

“I’ve done a show in Berlin and a few other shows in northern Europe as well,” Edwards said. “I love Toronto. I’ve done eight or nine shows in Toronto, and it’s one of my favorite cities,” Edwards said.

Not only has Edwards traveled around the globe designing for some of the biggest names in theater, he has also designed for events such as the 1996 Olympic Centennial Park and “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” Jimmy Buffet’s musical adaptation of a novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk.

“To sit in a room with Herman Wouk and Jimmy Buffett was really fun, and we had a huge budget too,” Edwards said.

Although Edwards has been to many odd and interesting places, he says the most unusual place to work in is in the U.S.

“The most bizarre place I’ve worked in is Branson, Mo. It is the strangest place in the world,” Edwards said. “Branson was a really unique place. It was an odd, odd experience.”

Edwards said that traveling is one of the things he loves most about his job as a scenic designer.

“Getting to travel and see different places is a part of my job that is extremely rewarding,” Edwards said. “Most of the time I’m sitting in a dark theater looking at a pretend thing with people shining colored lights at it, and I think to myself, ‘This is a weird job. I can’t believe they pay me to do this.’”

One of the things that Edwards finds most satisfying after designing a set is being able to sit back and critique his own work.  

“You get a chance to look at it objectively and say, ‘Yes, that worked,’ or ‘That nearly worked,’” Edwards said.

While Edwards’ passion for design is evident, directing is also a huge part of his life.

“As a director, he pushes his actors to their fullest potential,” Damare said. “He forces you as an actor to give him exactly what he wants.”

On top of being an accomplished scenic designer and director, Edwards is also known to be a teacher who is very personal with his students and spends as much time as he can to teach them everything he knows.

“When Dex teaches, he takes all the information and sets it side by side with real life experiences that he has had,” Sam Damare, a junior musical theater major said.

“After my first year of teaching at Ole Miss I went, ‘I really like this teaching business,’” Edwards said. “It really is very fun.”

Edwards is well respected by his colleagues, as well as other designers in the theater industry.

“His attention to detail is really what sets him apart from other designers,” Michael Barnett, assistant professor of lighting design, said.

Edwards has taught many theater design classes as well as directing classes at Ole Miss, and Damare said he is considered one of the most creative and professional teachers.