As a member of the production crew of “Saturday Night Live,” Anna Krempholtz, ’16, can’t help but think back to all the late hours she spent at Niagara University’s Leary Theatre.
“(SNL) brings some fun things out of me that I really miss at Niagara,” Krempholtz said during a recent visit back to the Lewiston campus. “I’m really grateful for my whole journey.”
As a prospective student, Krempholtz originally came to Niagara University on a whim. She was interested in enrolling in a physician assistant program, but none of the schools she visited appealed to her. Krempholtz was curious about Niagara’s theatre and fine arts program and signed up for an audition on short notice to see what the university could offer her.
“It suddenly felt like home,” said Krempholtz, who majored in theatre performance with a double minor in design and production, and American sign language and deaf studies. “I loved the theatre program. I got everything I possibly could out of this school.”
While Krempholtz has a passion for acting and performance, it was at Niagara where she discovered a love of scenic design. The theatre and fine arts program is structured to allow students to work on live productions for the on-campus Leary Theatre beginning in their first semester. Krempholtz used the opportunities to gain experience in all aspects of theater, including lighting, music, wardrobes, and production design.
“I went for acting, but I didn’t realize how much I loved scenic design,” she said. “You’re exposed to all facets of the theatre. A lot of students going in for performance can do, like I did, lighting crew. You do scene shop hours, costume shop hours, and as you get more experience, a lot of the performance majors get specific roles. I was really into props, so I was prop coordinator for several shows. You can’t help but be exposed to everything, and shows the full collaboration process behind theatre. That’s what I love the most about this program.”
During her time at Niagara, Krempholtz’s journey into scenic design was aided by Josie DiVincenzo, an adjunct faculty member who worked with her on an independent study of painting. Less than a week after Krempholtz graduated in 2016, DiVincenzo’s recommendation helped her a job on the 2017 film, “Marshall,” which was filmed in Buffalo and starred Chadwick Boseman. From there, Krempholtz began amassing a number of jobs as a scenic painter for many local film and television productions such as Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” and the forthcoming “Cabrini” from Alejandro Monteverde, as well as theater companies like Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theatre and Road Less Traveled.
Krempholtz’s growing career helped her join the United Scenic Artists Union. She moved to New York City this past summer to continue exploring her professional opportunities.
“I am grateful every day because I was lucky,” Krempholtz said. “I went (to Niagara) for acting, but I didn’t realize how much I loved scenic design. I got into scenic painting and now that’s my career. I make really good money, I’ve met amazing people, and I’ve gone into the union. I never would have done any of that if I didn’t come to Niagara. It’s been a very lucky life, and opportunity-wise, I’m trying to get through all the doors that have been offered to me.”
The most recent door is “Saturday Night Live,” the televised sketch comedy institution that remains one of entertainment’s most exciting, energetic, and chaotic productions as the cast and crew create and perform an entirely new 90-minute program each week. Krempholtz joined the crew this season as a scenic painter for the film crew that produce the show’s pre-recorded segments. Because of the frenetic pace of the show schedule, Krempholtz only has two days before the live show to complete her work. She arrives on set on Thursday afternoon and typically works 18 straight hours, working on creating three to five sets in a short amount of time.
“The coolest thing about SNL is that it’s a great blend of film and theatre,” she said. “My crew works very vigorous overnights … and it’s a lot of coffee. You have to really be able to stay awake and bring all of your tools together to the production. On other films, you normally have three to six weeks to have all these sets built and ready to go. Doing five sets in one night is another level.”
Beyond working on the production side, Krempholtz is also engaged in pursuing her performing ambitions. In addition to acting, she also has experience with fight chorography after working with Niagara University’s artist-in-residence Adriano Gatto, then studying with Fight Directors Canada. Currently, Krempholtz is working with some main stage productions with fight chorography, as well as introducing high schoolers to the form during workshops.
“I consider it all as one,” Krempholtz said of her career in theater and production. “It’s lovely to have painting as my day job. It’s so fun to be able to go to work and paint during the day, then go to rehearsal at night, because I’m really involved in the theater community in Buffalo too.”
For more on Krempholtz’s work, visit her website at annakrempholtz.com