Catching up on the Spring Semester 2012!

In the flurry of activities at the end of our spring semester left us a bit behind on blogging through our process.  We apologize, and offer the following recap of the end of the spring 2012:

March – The beginning of the month saw about a dozen students and three faculty members head off to the Southeastern Theatre Conference convention in Chattanooga, TN.  Faculty presented as part of panel discussions, attended Undergraduate Auditions, staffed our information booth, and took part in the leadership meetings for SETC; students participated in workshops, auditioned and interviewed for professional summer work, auditioned for graduate study, competed (and won) in the improv comedy competition.  A great conference year, and an opportunity we look forward to every year – convention will be held in Louisville, KY in 2013.

April – A busy time of the year for us as we wrap up our production and academic calendar.  Eleemosynary by Lee Blessing was directed by senior Eleanor Baxter in our intimate Theatre 151 space.  Ms. Baxter then followed up the closing of that show by performing her Senior Recital two days later!

The last week of the semester saw our 2012 Belhaven Theatre Festival, which featured 11 different events, from staged readings, class presentations, original productions, music concerts, improv comedy, and a presentation from our Alpha Psi Omega student-led organization.  A great tradition – which leaves us all both inspired and exhausted!

After the semester concluded, 10 students from both the theatre and dance departments at Belhaven went on a two-week trip to visit The Art Factory, a missions organization in Kandern, Germany.  While there, students worked at the Factory (doing various cleaning and organizing tasks), led workshops in dance, acting, and improv comedy, visited Black Forest Academy to lead chapel services in both the high school and middle school, and presented Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  We were very grateful for the hospitality of Rick and Mary Beth Holladay, who head up the work of the Art Factory, and look forward to future connections with their work for the kingdom.

There are many more exciting things happening in the community and work around Belhaven University’s theatre department – we promise to be more active in sharing our joys, struggles, thoughts, processes and news with you in the future!

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!


Better Prepared the Second Time Around

This was the second year I was able to attend SETC and participate in the Professional Auditions. Because I can’t do anything easily, I also decided to indulge my masochistic side and participate in the Graduate School auditions in lieu of my upcoming graduation from Belhaven. Thankfully, I was scheduled to do my Professional Audition the day before the Grad Auditions (how some people did them both on the same day, I don’t know). All in all, this year was vastly different from last year. Because I was able to participate in the professional auditions the year before, I knew what was to be expected and was therefore able to prepare a little bit better (knowing to project more, picking a better audition piece, mentally preparing for any callbacks etc.) I was, however, surprised by the difference between the professional auditions and the grad school auditions. The grad auditions were set in a lot smaller setting, a little bit more relaxed–overall not as “intense” as the professional auditions, you were allowed two and a half minutes to perform two pieces (a classical and contemporary), the stage was smaller, and there were definitely fewer auditioners and auditionees. After all the auditioning was done, I had been given four callbacks from the Professional Auditions, and nine from the Grad School auditions. Thanks to last year’s experience and knowing what to expect, I feel I was able to enjoy the callback/interview experience a lot more. As of now, I’ve applied for  the University of Arkansas’ MFA acting program and should hear back from them next week, as well as several internships in Sacramento, CA (with the B Street Theatre Co.) and Norfolk, VA (with the Virginia Stage Co.)

First Time & Overwhelmed

My first experience with SETC was rather overwhelming. No matter how much someone tells you about it, you can never really know what to expect until you go and experience it first-hand. I didn’t do auditions or job contact, but I did attend several workshops and visited the education expo in search of graduate schools. The workshops were interesting but I think that I got more out of visiting booths from different schools. I met a lot of interesting people who were able to give me some great information and advice. I met many people whose attitudes (and demeanor) didn’t exactly entice me to apply/audition for their program, but I also met several who were very friendly and encouraging and made me want to research their program more.

Can You Hear Me Now?

This was my first time at SETC, and I have to say I had a really great experience.  While I was there, I attended a lot of workshops that related to anything dealing with Sound Design.  Out of everything that I did at SETC, the workshops were the best things I could have attended because the information I gathered about portfolios, composition and even the art of sound designing itself was invaluable.
Sound portfolios, like costume, set and lighting portfolios are a representation of a designer’s work.  The only difference between sound portfolios and other portfolios, is that a sound designer’s work is “heard” as opposed to “seen”.  There are many ways that sound designer’s build portfolios.  Some use websites, DVD’s, and powerpoint or keynote presentations.  The form of the portfolio really depends on the designer, but any of the formats mentioned work well.  The main thing that was stressed –> to have a successful sound portfolio is pairing the sound with some kind of imagery.  Having pictures or video from shows gives the people your are presenting your portfolio to an idea of what the overall feel of the show was like.  It essentially adds another layer to the work you are presenting.
Most of the time, sound designing means finding music and sound effects that pair really well with the show.  Collaborating with the director, other designers and even actors is very helpful when trying to find music that fits the theme/mood of the show. Generally, sound designers pull music from various artists, a lot of designers however, also compose their own music for the shows.  It was stressed very heavily that the sound designers that get hired the most for different companies are the ones that have composition skills.  Therefore, if you are going to be a sound designer, you really need to be able to compose your own music.
Lots of information, lots of great ideas, and lots of fun! SETC was awesome, and I can’t wait for next year! 🙂

SETC First Timer

I have lost track of how many “firsts” I have had the chance to experience in this department; however, it is hard to forget four days at the Hilton in Atlanta, attending workshops that put you in the role of a trickster, and teach you that you have been breathing wrong your entire life. To cap it all, you are surrounded by thousands of people numbered like lemmings, wearing outfits that range from business-casual, to evening gown, to what is she wearing on her head???

If you haven’t had this same experience, then allow me to introduce you to it. It is the South Eastern Theatre Conference, held annually in various south-eastern cities. This was my FIRST excursion at SETC, and here are is what I learned:
First: I had better be ready for the world I am entering, (I speak of the theatre world….I am, in fact aware that I’m on planet Earth…)
Now think about it…this was ONE conference, in ONE section, of ONE country in the entire world. And I know for a fact that not everyone attended, who COULD HAVE attended. Moral of the story? I had better be in this 100 percent. It is both intimidating and incredibly exciting, seeing this fraction of humanity who have the same vocational hopes and dreams as myself.
Also, as a missionary kid, I take language to heart….speaking the same language is a hugely intimate thing to me. So when complete strangers speak to me of monologues, tech-positions, and ‘broken legs’, there is an unspoken bond that connects us, even if we will never see each other again. It is also is so encouraging to me to realize how much I have learned in the past two years, and to know how much more I will learn in the next two.