Celebrating 21 Years with Mike Rhoads

2019 WarnerMedia Upfront stage design by Mike Rhoads

Production Designer Mike Rhoads celebrates his 21st year with ATOMIC

From L-R: Steve Kaelin, Nate Schreffler, Joe Dunn, Daniel McPhillips, Mike Rhoads, Kevin Frymyer. The team was awake and working for at least 24-hours finishing a set piece for Eminem at the 1999 MTV VMA’s. One of the first official ATOMIC Scenic builds.

World Golf Hall of Fame, 2017

Turner Upfront stage design by Mike Rhoads, 2018

Mike's set design for "Angles in America" at EPAC, 2013

Mike's set design at EPAC

2001. Painting a 30 x 60 floor cloth for Hikaru Utada: MTV Japan Unplugged: … In a parking lot… in Tokyo… in August.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the Lucasfilm archives at Skywalker Ranch in preparation for the Star Wars: A Musical Journey touring exhibit.

Mike's set design for "Spring Awakening" at EPAC, 2012

The finale of "Sunday in the Park with George" at EPAC

Mike's recreation of the famous George Seurat painting, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte."

Opening day of “Sunday in the Park with George” at EPAC, July 1999… per usual, Mike was still putting finishing touches on the scrim up until doors.

Mike's set design for "The Heiress" at EPAC, 2017

2016 Turner Upfront stage design by Mike Rhoads

Turner Upfront main stage design by Mike Rhoads, 2017

PBS Great Performances: Hayley Westenra, Wellington, New Zealand, 2006.

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What makes ATOMIC the company it is today after 25 years in the live entertainment industry? The people. The employees, the clients, and partners. Please join Team ATOMIC in celebrating one unique and talented individual that has been working at ATOMIC for the past 20 years, Mike Rhoads! A Senior Production Designer, Mike’s design credits include Mike Shinoda’s “Post Traumatic” Tour, Panic at the Disco US Tour, HBO’s “Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction,” “Star Wars in Concert” touring exhibit, and the overall event design for the 2009 LPGA US Women’s Open to name a few. Most notably, Mike has designed the annual Upfront presentation for WarnerMedia (formerly Turner Entertainment Network) since 2005. 

With a BFA in Painting from Penn State, Mike started down the path of a fine artist and (believe it or not) actually showed and sold some of his work. What was to be a temporary detour into scenic painting for Sight and Sound Theaters in the early 90s, became a six-year immersion in scenic painting and set design. During this period, he also started working with much of Lancaster’s theater community, including designers such as Victor Capecce and Bob Klingelhoffer, and theaters such as Ephrata Performing Arts Center (EPAC), Theater of the Seventh Sister, and the Fulton Theater. He spent three seasons at the American Music Theater as Prop Master and Assistant Scenic Designer. In 1999, ATOMIC began its transition from founder Tom McPhillips’ one-man studio into a full-fledged shop to meet the increasing demand and scope of Tom’s designs. Starting as a carpenter at ATOMIC, Mike was one of the first five shop employees. Mike eventually moved into scenic painting and art directing for Tom, and ultimately his own design work. 

In addition to his “day job” at ATOMIC, he remains an active member of the local theater community, having designed and/or painted 100+ shows for EPAC over the past 25 years. As if that’s not enough (we think Mike might be hiding a clone), he has also designed the Ephrata High School’s spring musical since 2003. Some of his most notable shows at EPAC include Sunday in the Park With George, Spring Awakening, Falsettos, Angels in America Parts 1 & 2, The Heiress, A Little Night Music, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Ragtime to name a few.

One of Mike’s favorite career memories combines ATOMIC and EPAC. Mike joined ATOMIC as a carpenter and helped build some of the original A&E Live by Request and MTV Unplugged sets. He knew right away that ATOMIC was where he wanted to develop his career, even though there was no guarantee that he’d move into the painting or design career paths. In the summer of 1999, Mike was working on the musical Sunday in the Park with George for EPAC recreating the famous George Seurat painting, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” He needed more space to finish the scrim, so he snuck it into the ATOMIC shop over the weekend—intending to get in and out with no one the wiser. However, Tom saw the backdrop and was suitably impressed—setting Mike on the path to painting with and designing for one of the leading designers in the industry.

Mike’s recreation of the famous George Seurat painting, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” 

Mike continues to work with WarnerMedia each year on its annual Upfront Presentation and is honored to have worked with their team for 14+ years. It’s truly unheard of for a designer to have a client for 15 years running, and it just speaks to Mike’s design eye, talent and professionalism.

Longtime co-worker and business partner, Soren West reflects on working with Mike Rhoads, “I have had the great pleasure of working with Mike Rhoads for over twenty years. Mike is an amazing talent; I don’t think he knows how brilliant he is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought Mike a half-baked idea and watched him turn it into something that looks amazing and actually works.
Mike’s design process is, at its core, informed by theater – the oldest form of our work in live events, concerts, and even brand activation – so everything he brings to the creative process is thoroughly considerate of the constraints and objectives unique to the project. The end result is something that looks amazing to the audience and on camera, in a space that works, in a practical way, for stage management and every department that has to function in the design that he prescribes.”

Turner Upfront stage featuring a video “crown” (ceiling) that hug over the audience

Take a look at some of Mike’s work in the photo slider above and the many portfolio links below – make sure to check out his favorite, recent design, the 2018 Turner Entertainment Network Upfront. Mike took the MSG Theatre’s narrow proportions and capitalized on it uniquely by designing a “crown” in the space. He created a grand, yet intimate feeling at the same time, encompassing the audience with the content! We raise our glass to Mike to say, “Cheers – here’s to another 20 years!” 

Mike Rhoads’ Portfolio:

2019 WarnerMedia Upfront

2018 Turner Entertainment Network Upfront

World Golf Hall of Fame

2017 Turner Entertainment Network Upfront

Turner Corporate Meeting

2017 Turner NewFront

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