Theatre Department Awards 2011

Each year, the theatre department gives out a pair of awards, the Priscilla and Barnabas awards, to the theatre majors who most exemplify our department’s concept of the Servant Artist, willing to serve both backstage and on, using their talents and energies in the art and activity of theatre.

This year’s Priscilla Award was presented to senior Deanna Smith, who has been selfless in her desire to support others, excellent in her ability to manage and organize as a leader, and has expanded her realm of service beyond the theatre into supporting this spring’s faculty dance concert as their stage manager.  After doing excellent work last year in stage managing Murder in the Cathedral and leading the props crew for Importance of Being Earnest, it’s been a pleasure to watch Deanna’s passion and drive become richer as they have been further tempered with patience and compassion.

The Barnabas Award was presented to junior Dave Harris, who has emerged as a strong leader in our department through taking on senior production responsibilities, establishing himself as a role model of willingness and service.  Dave has been a force onstage for several years, playing lead roles in Much Ado about Nothing and A Doll’s House, but over the past year, as he has developed his abilities as a leader and motivator behind the scenes, his spirit and his giving has shown itself in even stronger performances in Three Sisters and The Bald Soprano this spring.

Please join our faculty in congratulating this year’s Theatre Award recipients.

SETC IS Whatever YOU Make It

This was my first ever SETC Convention. Well, to tell the truth, it was the first convention I’d been to that was about theater. When we drove into our hotel in Atlanta, after our six-hour car drive, I realized the sheer size of the thing I had stepped into. Our seniors tried to tell us what’d be like. We had meetings on where to register, how to dress, what job contact was like, they laid everything out with a quiet solemnity of the experienced.

I remember, the first thing I realized were how many workshops they had. When you are standing in line, there are giant electric signs that scroll through the activities taking place in the generically named conference rooms. The pages scrolled in pixeled  blips through page after page of theater workshops: Suszuki Movement and Acting, Creating Realistic Characters, Playwrights, Silicone Make-Up, How to Build an Effective Resume and Portfolio. I even picked out a workshop on building armor by the time I got to the check-in counter.

In our rooms later that night, after watching an arial silks interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, we one by one drifted off to sleep or circled our workshops for the morning session. I planned to take a resume and portfolio class first to help with my last minute resume edits. As I feel asleep between to twin sheets of marsh-mellowy fluff, I dreaded and dreamed of the next day.
Okay, it wasn’t all that scary. The workshops were as different as siblings, all from the same family, but nothing alike. I took the portfolio class, which reaffirmed my need for more resume material and that I did have the right sized portfolio. The classroom was cold, and the class was taught by three wildly different teachers, but I learned how to make an awesome resume. I took a silicone make-up class next, which was very self-indulgent of me because I probably will never actually work with the stuff, but that’s the great thing about SETC. You can take classes just because you want to learn something.
The acting workshops I took later on in the conference became my favorites. I watched each teacher, and I’ve said it before, but they really were all incredibly different. I loved each class. I think one of the best things I learned was the different places people hold tension during monologues. The forehead and shoulders seemed to be most common in the students the teacher worked with. She transformed monologues by simply reminding them not to furrow their forehead, or to release their shoulders. I took her card at the end of the session. The Suszuki movement class was intense and the teacher a force of nature, but it made me look at the discipline of acting in a whole new light.
I will say, however, that more than the shock of a new place (which is normal after two months in Jackson Mississippi) is the terrifying face of job contact. I waited day and a half to build up the courage to actually go down to the lower level to just look at it. It was as scary as I thought it would be… at first. As you talk to people and see other students walk by with pristine resumes and portfolios obese with awesomeness, well as a freshman I felt like I had a safe margin of failure. That sounds bad, I knew I probably would not get a job, if only because of my inexperience, and that was somehow comforting. I still four or five awesome interviews, even if nothing came of them now, I’ve made some great contacts.
SETC really is whatever you make it. I made friends across the USA, writers, techies, and actors alike. I learned how to make a silicone scar, build a portfolio, construct a realistic character, and, and I don’t even know everything I learned. Somethings I won’t be able to say out loud because I don’t know I’ve learned them, but I have. I have taken so much from SETC. It’s something every theater major ought to do, whatever class level. I’ll be going next year and I’m already excited!

Sound Design and Portfolios

Being a tech theatre major I have learned there are two main things that you need.  First is a specialized skill set, and second is a portfolio. For me the first thing has never been hard to figure out. I have loved running sound since I was a kid. The second part was a slight bit more difficult. Most techies work with physical things (i.e. sets, props, costumes.) being a sound designer and engineer is a little different though because I am working with things like digital sound files and sounds that you hear. So when my professors told me I need to start creating a sound portfolio I was slightly distraught on how to take these intangible items and present them in a way that allows me to explain my concepts to people who don’t know much about sound.

My first idea had been to create a website that others could visit and have all the information and sound files there. The problem that I had with this is that I could not afford to use a web site host, and I don’t have access to a server that I could have hosted my web site on my own. Not to mention the fact that I actually have no web design and creation background. So I kept brainstorming for ideas. The next idea I had was to create some simple presentations that people could click through. This was actually not a bad idea. The only issue is walking the line between sophisticated and crap. To help keep on the side of sophisticated I decided to use the hyperlink ability that Keynote has to help me gain a website feel.

To actually present my work I took 30 to 40 second clips of various tracks from the different shows I had worked on. Then created links to each of these on slides for each show. This allowed me to give a broad example of my concepts.

While at SETC this past weekend I was given the opportunity to show my portfolio to several experienced sound designers, and get feed back about how I can improve my portfolio. Overall everyone thought that I had accomplished the challenges of sound designers quite well. Most of the advice I received was just in the presentation of my material. They recommended that I add more photos or video, which is something that I have wanted to do, but just haven’t had an opportunity to get the images I need. They also talked to me about some paper work like speaker position layouts, channel hook-ups, and screen shots of programs and the multi-track works that I have created that would be a great addition.

Another idea for presenting my work that I saw one designer use was to create three to four minute soundscape clips that give an example of the entire play’s sound design. Though complex it gives a snippets of the atmospheres and moods created through out the show by the sound design.

Over the next several weeks I hope to use all of the information and feedback I gleaned from SETC, and the sound designers I met with, to boost my portfolio to a whole new level.


Expect the unexpected @ SETC

“Expect the unexpected,” is what I learned at SETC Atlanta.

I decided to go this year just to experience SETC for the first time. It was a hard decision to make, because I am a junior and it seemed unwise for me to not do job contact or an audition of any kind. But God gave me peace about just going and seeing what it was like, taking workshops, and meeting theatre people from all over the country. When I got to Atlanta and to the hotel, the only thing I could say was, “man, thank God I didn’t try to do more.”

It was quite a sight. There were hundreds of people everywhere of every type bustling about with excited facial expressions, suitcases, and a contagious energy. I felt rather small, honestly. Coupled with that, however, was feeling incredibly blessed to be among a big group of people passionate about the same thing — theatre.
So, I mentioned “expect the unexpected” at SETC. What’s that about? Well, (this is where I would recommend a little more preparedness) I was wandering through the university/theatre school booths downstairs when I came to the Stella Adler Studio of Acting table. I got talking with the marketing associate, Ryan, and he gave me an application for their summer 2011 acting conservatory. I hadn’t auditioned for them or didn’t really have any ambition to go to NY this summer, but completely ecstatic, I did it anyway. I ran back to the table after filling it out, gave him my headshot and resume (I JUST printed it off. Again, God was gracious in this instance, so just in case — PREPARE [unlike me :)]) and he promised to call me with an interview time later.
Throughout the weekend, I kept running into him randomly. Our conversations usually went something like this:

“Hey Ryan!”

“Hey, um, Stephanie? Right?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Good to see ya!”

And then one day, I began,

“So, have you decided on interview times yet?”

He responded, “Yes, sorry I’ve been meaning to get back to you. We’ll sign you up for the first slot, Saturday at 6pm.”

Saturday at 6pm. Yeah, I was nervous. But so excited! I really didn’t know where this was all going. I knew that it was pretty unlikely I would get in, but I went along with it, and the next step was Saturday at 6.

The interview went pretty well. It wasn’t outstanding. In fact, I kind of felt like I was putting them to sleep 🙂 But after a long, stressful weekend for everyone, it was understandable.
In conclusion, a week later, I got a call from Ryan with an acceptance into their summer program. I couldn’t believe it! God definitely used this to teach me to expect the unexpected and be prepared for the unexpected. So, even if you’re going to SETC to experience it for the first time, don’t hesitate to come over prepared and with an open heart to meet lots of people. Trust God, and you never know what He will do.


Always Follow Up

This was my second time going through the job contact service at SETC.  Now I knew that I should have my resumes printed on actual resume paper, rehearse what I wanted to say about my stage management experience (position I was applying everywhere for), and actually take notes during each on-the-spot interviews.  A bunch of companies would tell me to e-mail them once the conference was over to let them know whether or not I was still interested, which was not a whole lot of fun.  What do you write in attempt to get hired when you can’t physically show your work to affirm what you say?  I simply thanked them for their involvement with the conference, said their company interested me, and reminded them that they should have my resume on file to consider as they were making decisions for summer employment.  I ended up receiving an offer for an paid summer internship as an ASM three weeks later!  Lesson learned:  ALWAYS follow up with companies, even if you’re only mildly interested, because you never know which opportunities will fall through and which ones will actually happen.


My SETC Experience

This year was my second year to attend SETC, and it was different for me in more ways than one. The biggest being that I passed State Screenings in December and was able to audition for about 80 different artistic directors from many theatres around the country while at SETC. Last year I didn’t pass State Screenings but I was still able to do Job Contact at the conference, which was very beneficial for me. It was good to be able to take in the craziness of the conference and get myself mentally ready for this year. Coming into this year’s conference I felt a lot more prepared and knew what was expected of me. I was really thankful that two of my best friends, Scott and Marie, were also passed on to SETC auditions and it was great to be able to bounce ideas off of them and journey through the overwhelming (but rewarding) process together.
I was thankful to audition on Thursday, the second day of the conference. My audition wasn’t until 3pm, so I had the entire day to focus, go over my monologue, and relax. The way the auditions went were that the auditionees went into a large ballroom 40 at a time and waited in chairs on the side of the room while one person went on the stage to do their monologue and/or song in front of many tables of artistic directors. I won’t lie, it was quite intimidating. The level of talent and dedication around me wasinspiring, and I felt like a “little fish in a big pond.” I feel confident that I gave my very best efforts that day, and the fruits of my labor paid off in 4 callbacks, which I went to later that night. I met some truly wonderful people and learned about several great internships that theatres around the country offer. The knowledge I gained from those callbacks is invaluable, and even if I don’t hear back from the ones that interested me most, I’ve made connections that I wouldn’t have made any other way!


Theatre Festival “opening ceremony”

With storms rolling through the Metro Jackson area, we’ve decided to move our ‘opening ceremony’ to the world wide web.  The storms will have passed through in time for the rest of the evening’s festival events to continue as scheduled.

Opening Address:

On behalf of the faculty, staff and students of the Theatre department, I would like to share a few thoughts on the Belhaven Theatre Festival, which officially begins this evening and continues through Saturday, April 16.  While this is our inaugural festival, it is our sincere hope to make this an annual event.

The idea of the festival grew out of our desire as a department to create as many opportunities as possible for students to showcase their talents, their interests, and their gifts, particularly when it comes to the creation of new theatre.  We are excited about the slate of events this year, including the visits of our guest artists Rich Swingle and C. McNair Wilson.

The word ‘festival’ is derived from the word ‘feast’, which was used to describe not only a celebratory meal (often during times of plentiful supply), but also in connection to a religious ceremony or celebration.

The Greek word ‘theatron’, which is the basis for our word ‘theatre’, literally translates as “a seeing place.”  The word contains the implication that the theatre is a place to perceive, to visit, the action that takes place there; action which often includes the presence of the divine.

It is our hope that the Belhaven Theatre Festival will be that place where we may come into contact with, and enable ourselves to perceive, the divine.  That it will be a time of plenty, and that it will be a time of celebration.  A celebration of our community.

Our prayer for the Festival:


Our Father

And Creator

We give you praise

We thank you for your gifts to us

We thank you for the opportunity to offer them back

We offer you this Festival

An offering of our time, our talents, our energies, our focus

May it be a blessing to you

May it be a blessing to the audiences you bring

May you speak your Truth through us

May you guide our work

May you keep us safe

May your presence be with us

And bless us

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ