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Behind the Scenes Look at Technical Theater Classes

Published: December 20, 2017

A successful performance may look effortless to the audience, but there are many valuable components involved both on the stage and off the stage. We are all familiar with the important role that actors, writers, and directors have in the production of a show, but one indispensable role that is commonly overlooked takes place behind the scenes, the technical aspects of theater. This includes everything from costume design to stage lighting.

The Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts at Ruth Eckerd Hall is offering classes in Technical Theater for those interested in what happens behind the scenes to put on a successful performance. To help shed some light on what the program has to offer, we spoke with instructor, Mike Shine.

What skills and techniques are students learning in this course?

“Students in the course focus on elements of scenic and lighting production.  For scenic, we have gone through: the design process, construction materials, tools, and scenic painting. For lighting, we have discussed the design process, types of lighting fixtures, color choice, patterns, and programming on a lighting console.  We then put the elements together and see how they combine to form a show.”

Is there a level of skill needed to enroll?

“Any skill level is fine - no prior knowledge or experience in theater is necessary.”

What is the best part about taking this course?

“Besides a basic knowledge of technical theater, the students were able to see the process behind the scenes of a couple of professional shows this past semester. In cooperation with Hat Trick Theatre productions and Ruth Eckerd Hall, they had the opportunity to help to build a professional theater show- Night of the Living Dead in the Murray Theatre.  We were also able to sit in on a rehearsal for Roger Daltrey and the load-in of Primus on the Ruth Eckerd Hall Mainstage.”

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Is technical theater only for those who like to be exclusively off stage/ behind the scenes?

“It is for those who appreciate the art of entertainment.  There is a certain satisfaction to working on a show and entertaining people - that may be acting onstage or it can come from creating beauty in the lighting, breathtaking scenery, or working as a team to achieve a particularly difficult scene change or effect.  You don’t have to be onstage to make an impact on the audience.”

Why would a student be interested in taking a course about technical theater? Graham Mastro, who is currently enrolled at the Hoffman explained “I wanted to take a technical course because it was different from the other classes. It showed the technical side of theater in a hands-on way. My favorite part about the class was getting to work with professional equipment and actually use some of them to create my own theme. Some of the activities that I had the chance to experience was building stage props, using color fixtures and lights as well as using the light and soundboard.”

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Students have so much to gain from this course not only from the experience of working with the technical components of a production but also from the experience of working alongside professionals in the theater industry. Professionals like Paul McColgan, Director of Education at The Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts. To help you understand the value of these classes, McColgan answered a few questions about the classes:

How useful is this course for someone who plans to pursue a professional career in the performing arts?

“Very useful, indeed.  Students taking both classes get to experience all the technical aspects of Theater, which will help our students discover the areas they may wish to focus on. Having this knowledge will give them an advantage over other people entering a professional world where experience is the key to growth and success.”

What components do you include for the technical theater curriculum and why?

“We prioritized getting the base level of exposure to as many aspects of Technical Theater as possible.  Students learn about Scenic Design, Lighting, Sound, Costume, and Make-up/Special Effects.  We chose this path so that students would be able to knowledgably assist our professionals in the real life scenarios we were able to provide.  Within the first month of classes, students are already working hands-on, and involved with a real production.

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Arts education is an important element within the youth of our community. It has proven to enhance mental and cognitive abilities, increase cultural understanding, improve performance across all curriculum areas and develop social skills. At the Hoffman, we find that arts education is a valuable experience for students to explore a diverse and creative outlet through our theatre courses.

Our classes are for everyone, all you need is a passion for performing arts! From music to dance, see what courses are available at the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts and sign-up for one today!