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People and Programs

The Undergraduate Program

Design and Production

Design and Production offers specialized course work supporting concentrations in scenic, lighting and costume design, technical direction and stage management within the context of a broad-based liberal arts education in theater. In addition to enriching course work in dramaturgy, history and performance techniques, undergraduates may pursue advanced work in their area of interest and may engage in challenging practical production experiences appropriate to their development.

Our students enjoy programs tailored to their academic and professional goals and are supported with individual mentorship. Our faculty, staff and guest artists are working theater professionals providing students with exceptional opportunities for creativity, risk-taking and success in the classroom, in our production season and in outside professional experiences. Our program cultivates collaboration, creativity, communication and leadership preparing our students for employment or advanced study. Graduates of our program enjoy prominent, successful careers on Broadway, in Hollywood and in many regional theaters.

Scene Design and Technology

After completing the introductory level course in Scenic Design, students may enroll in Scene Painting, AutoCAD Drafting, History of Design, Scenic Construction Techniques, and more.  Advanced students are mentored by experienced professionals throughout. With faculty permission, they may take Scenic Design and Technology Studio, a graduate-level course that offers professional training in application of visual research, conceptualization of performing space, color theory, model making, presentation skills and portfolio development. Upper-level students are encouraged to assist graduate or faculty scenic designers.  Exceptionally accomplished undergraduates may be invited to design departmental productions in either the Rand (proscenium) or Curtain (black box) theaters.

Lighting Design

Lighting students in the BA program study the art and craft of lighting design for the stage, as well as learning related technical crafts. Students learn to make choices for lighting a stage production based on the text or performance event, the space and resources, research and their own creative responses.  Classes explore light as a medium for expression, and develop technical skills in drafting, electrics, assisting. We encourage students to develop skills for being creative and responsive, to learn to work well collaboratively and under pressure, and to observe lighting in the world, on the stage and in research.

Students in the BA program are encouraged to develop these skills as technicians and as designers through several courses that build on each other, as well as through production assignments. Undergraduate students studying lighting should expect to serve as electricians, light board operators, master electricians and assistant designers in the department. A handful of exceptional upper-level students may be invited to serve as lighting designers on department productions in the Curtain or in the Rand Theater.

Email professor Penny Remsen.

Email lecturer Margo Caddell or visit her website.

Email department master electrician Michael Dubin.

Costume Design

After completing the prerequisite, Theater 160: Beginning Techniques in Design, where basic sewing skills are taught, theater majors are eligible to enroll in 362, Costume Design.

362 Costume Design subscribes to the founding philosophy of the Department of Theater’s undergraduate program, and this level of costume design is accessible to all students studying theater. A student new to the discipline of costume studies will gain basic knowledge in design, learn skills for visual communication, and build on previous experiences from 160 with hands-on work in the costume shop. A student coming to 362 with more advanced design, drawing or construction skills can expect to enhance his or her knowledge and skills to a more sophisticated level.

462, Advanced Costume Design, is for those students who have completed 362 and who are specifically interested in costume design. The basics learned in 362 are further expanded upon and rendering skills are nurtured and developed. Assignments include practical work in the costume shop in construction, completing crafts, and possibly serving as an assistant to the designer. 462, Advanced Costume Design, is repeatable multiple times. Email Costume Design Professor Jessica Ford or Costume Shop Manager Kristin Jensen.

Sound Design

Sound Design offers a path of study that captures students with a range of goals – from creating their own sound for a passion project to becoming a professional sound designer.  In this way, the undergraduate level provides a foundation of the art and craft of sound design that cultivates critical listening, appreciation of the field as it lives within the greater context of theater, and the skills and techniques to create sound and music for theater.  This ranges from in-class projects to hands-on opportunities to design for student productions, and to participate in design and engineering on the department’s Mainstage.

I also offer independent study in special topics.  Studio Recording and Music Production is an area of interest for many of our students, and these abilities apply to the creation of content for a theatrical sound design as well.  I develop other courses of independent study based on student interest, and have had students produce original sound art and podcasts.

Students who take advantage of the fundamental course offerings - Sound Design I, Sound Design II, and Sound Design Studio - will leave with the experience necessary to produce an original sound design and sound system design for live performance.  Students who explore special topics have advanced experience with various sub-areas within the field of audio.

Students may design student productions in shared courses and in the student-driven Cabaret series in our studio.  Advanced students are encouraged to assist the faculty designer on mainstage productions, and exceptionally accomplished undergraduates may be invited to design departmental productions.

Questions?  Email Professor Amy Altadonna, sound designer, and visit her website at amyaltadonnasounddesign.com.

Technical Direction

Students are offered a variety of challenging opportunities in Technical Direction to develop skills in project management, technical design, hand drafting, AutoCAD, advanced wood and metal working, properties construction, furniture design and fabrication, and automation.  Classes are project-based and interwoven with departmental projects so students can develop their skills in actual production situations.  Students work alongside and are mentored by skilled professionals and given opportunities to work on professional projects done locally or in New York City.  Advanced undergraduates can assume production roles of increasing responsibility such as Lead Carpenter, Master Carpenter, Prop Master, and Assistant Technical Director.

Email technical director Michael Cottom.

Stage Management

Stage managers enjoy rewarding relationships with faculty, graduate students and professional guest artists in a production process that mirrors that of the professional process. The liberal arts aspect of the UMass education is ideal for developing a strong understanding of the working relationship between artistic and technical collaborators. The stage management concentration typically begins with a comprehensive course focusing on practical production techniques supporting developing work from planning to performance and archiving. Stage Managers are offered practical and organizational techniques as well as a strong foundation in the artistry of stage management. Our production season provides the laboratory setting for stage managers to progress from assistant to lead stage manager. Within the context of our season stage managers strengthen abilities to craft schedules, facilitate communication, coordinate cue sequences and compile production books. Individual mentoring provides a personally tailored program encouraging challenge, development and success.

Email Production Manager Julie Fife.

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