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How vital is high school theatre?

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by moderately_clueless, Aug 14, 2006.

  1. moderately_clueless

    moderately_clueless Member

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    I'm a junior in high school and plan on going on to college to major in tech, lighting design or stage management specifically. And although my high school theatre program is good, I'm wondering if I would be better off working at an outside theatre. Partially because some people entertain themselves by making my pursuits in theatre more difficult than they have to be, also because high school theatre in general is limited. I've done some work on shows outside of my theatre and I have a regular job working sound and so far I've done fine outside of my school. The only difference is that at outside theatres, I don't get any experience managing or designing, just doing what I'm told, while at school I have chances to be crew chief or stage manager. So, if I have college in mind, is high school theatre enough?
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Yes it is. Very few programs are snobby enough to go "well you have only done theatre at your high school". I have said this before on this board, and i usally get yelled at for it, but most programs do not look at how great your shows where in the past, they look at what you did, and want to know why you did it. They are not looking for the person that knows everything (and if you think you are that person, you are wrong, and most programs don't want that person). They are going to look at the potential that you have. They want to see your eye for design, your work ethic, and most importantly your willingness to learn. No college expects you to know everything, because if you did you wouldn't need school, right? If you can get outside work it sure doesn't hurt to get exposed to other things, but stay at you high school, don't be a snob, and do your work. Take lots of pictures, keep everything, and remember that anything you do have a reason why you are doing it. Also if you can take any art classes while in HS do it, and put it in your portfolio. Most importantly have fun while you can!
     
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I agree wholeheartedly with Footer. Schools don't want the guy who already knows everything for a student, that's what they have instructors for. Get as much expirience as you can get a good background. What are you interested in specializing in ? Or are you? I could certainly steer you in a few directions of what I look for in an overhire carp, electrician, etc. Definately Keep active with the High school theatre Dept. as hard as it may seem to beleive you will pick up on stuff and personally I'd rather see a resume' cross my desk that says a guy in highschool was an S.M. or Crew Head, Master Carp. etc then to see an over blown reference like " assistant Case motivator" for the '38 special concert at the Wakaneenee Falls County Fair and swap meet. Colleges and most people in posistions like mine know the difference between somone who applies themselves in a school program and excels and someone who is going out working gigs pushing boxes. I'm not saying you shouldn't take those gigs but be aware that we understand those gigs are usually like you releayed them, " Hey Newbie go do this !" or "Go do That." I'd rather know you had an inkling of how to handle a crew, than know you were expirienced in finding the pink wood stretcher. That's my 2 cents worth.
     
  4. moderately_clueless

    moderately_clueless Member

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    Thanks. And so far I'm focusing on lighting, sound and stage management, come college I may work on being an electrician, or any other opportunity that presents itself. I just need more experience in different settings to see what I want to do specifically. But I'm working on just about every technical aspect at my high school, so I could go any direction.
     
  5. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Where are you looking to go to school? Also being an PSM with a lighting backround is a big big plus. Most lighting people start out as an electrician then move up to a more design role, so do not feel that you do not need to get your hands dirty (and from the sounds of it you are wanting to). A general rule in theatre, at least when you hit the door of a new space in the bottom rung of the ladder, NEVER say i can't do that, ask how, and never say no (unless they are asking you to do something stupid like walking an electric). Always try to be the first one in the truck grabbing gear, and getting going. Put yourself out there and people will give you more responsibility. Also, keep contact information of anyone that you work with for any period of time, you never know when it might come in handy.
     
  6. Capi

    Capi Member

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    I'm interested. What do you look for?
     
  7. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Well for a carp... fingers... and for an electrican... eyebrows....
     
  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Rolf Ditto
     
  9. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Ok I just recovered from my laughing fit.Footer that was funny. it actually made my wife laugh ! < and she's an equity S.M. , they don't laugh at anything ! > Capi, to answer your question I really like to see a varied background. I think people who specialize in one particular small area are, a great thing, a valuble resorce, excellent to have in a crisis and generally a pain in the ass to have around the rest of the time. I beleive the best Technicians I have ever worked with have all come from bizarre backgrounds, and what makes our feild so interesting is that it is so easy to pull info from just about any feild of work and apply it to theatre.
    I have to say I appreciate carpenters who A) have some real world framing experince. Nothing is a substitute for working in the "real" construction world I feel everyone should do it at least once and then get away ! far far away.
    B) Have some technical drawing / drafting under their belts. I've worked with guys who could build the most beautiful birdhouse in the world with real old world craftmanship , but they never realized it was supposed to be 20 ft tall they thought those drawings were real sized ! < I'm exaggerating, I do that. a lot.>
    C) Know their Hardware ! . Pretty self explanatory. But you'd be amazed at the number of times I've sent someone after a 1/4 knutsen spanner and they've come back with a 3/8" flugel valve !.
    Last but not least
    D) a Decent Freakin Work Attitude ! I've know guys that could build Beautiful birdhouses, in the proper proportions, in world record time, but nobody could stand to be near them in the shop or work with them on a crew. Personally I have never understood the Curmudgeon attitude, nor do I apprieciate it. If you're coming to work, along with your tools, lunchbox, and cd's you should pack your happyface !

    I'll give you more on electricians later if you want. Gotta go build a pool.....
     
  10. Capi

    Capi Member

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    I didn't mean to hijack this thread but what you look for in electricians would be cool too. I'm starting college in about a week to major in theater tech. and I'm not sure what I want to specialize in, if anything. I'm sure I will get a broad knowledge base anyway, I just don't know precisely what I want to do.
     
  11. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    First, what school did you end up choosing? Do a little of everything if you can. Don't be afraid to work in the costume shop (I personally really enjoyed it). Don't go in saying "I am a lighting person, lighting is all i do". You will not go far with that attitude. Do whatever you can whenever you can. Personaly i would rather have a person who has a great get it done work ethic and is good to be around that might know very little, but wants to learn, then a person who knows everything and is a pain in the rear. Just keep your mind open, and yourself on task and that will get you through. Do not be afraid to try new things.
     
  12. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    When I read that the movie Spinal Tap came right to mind.
     
  13. Capi

    Capi Member

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    I'm going to Huntington University (formerly Huntington College) in Huntington, IN.
     
  14. thorin81

    thorin81 Active Member

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    Yes high school theatre is a necessity and yes it is is essential. You have to have some place to get the basic skills that you need to survive in a college or professional theatre. If you were to come into the college program that I graduated from with no previous training or no other theatre work, you would have been WAY behind. They expected you to have some good base knowledge on theatre and how the process works and how to work in the various departments in order for you to succeed. They even favored those that have had previous professional experience.
    High school theatre classes are the place to get the basic training that you need in order to continue in the field. All the things you learn in high school that you learn, you will continue to use and the better prepared and the more you know before you go into a college program, the better.

    I attended this program: http://www.usu.edu/theatre

    They have a good technical theatre program, Every year for the past 6 years they have had finalists at ACTF and are really active with USITT. Take a look when you get the chance!
     
  15. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Well, what I look for, as I beleive a lot of other TD's or program heads might tell you, has been stated here in a couple of different ways, deisre. I don't need the best in the business, and I don't someone who is an expert in their feild. I think the best way to maintain a long stable carreer is the desire to keep learning and push your limits. I think it's great for an electrician to know, right off the top of his/her head, that the 10th through 15th dmx channel on a Martin MAC500 control the cmyk flags and exactly what colors can be acheived by setting what levels on those channels. ( I don't really know what those particular channels control it's just a for instance so don't quote me ! ) Thats good knowledge to have and if you want to spend your time learning it more power to you ! But it's completely useless for your average electrician because they are not usually at the board and when they start shouting out such knowledge from the FOH poisition it's annoying and precocious. Personally I subscribe to the Einstein Theory " That's what book are for, I keep my mind open for thinking..." ( paraphrased shamelessly ) Anyway I'm spending more time telling you what I don't want then want I want. Here you go.

    1) I would prefer a working knowledge of electrical theory. Know how to compute Amps, Watts, Volts, and what type of wire is required to handle what load. It doesn't help anyone if you come back from the cable cave carrying a bunch of 16g cable to plug in the Varilites with.
    2) I would suggest a getting very familiar with real world Electricians. Take at least one summer and do an intership with an electrical contractor. You might make some money and you'll learn a lot.
    3) If you want to design, then by all means design! If you just want to be an electrician then by all means design ! At least get one or two shows under your belt, it lets people who hire you know that you've been there, you have an understanding for what a designer is trying to accomplish when he starts asking for seemingly impossible.
    things.

    4) Get a few crew head posistions under your belt, again, it let's future employers know that you understand how to work with people and understand the pressures of managment.

    Good luck to you. I wish you a long and succesful career. I hope something I said helps you out.

    (the opinions expressed here are solely those of Van McQueen and in no way represent the opinions of any sane individuals. Adherence to, or acceptance of these principals, ideals, statements is purely voluntary and in no way guarantees a successful, happy or long carreer. please drink responsibly.)
     
  16. DarSax

    DarSax Active Member

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    I would say that while High School theater is very important, you should also branch out and try to do stuff in your community, or the likes (well, basically, stuff defined as 'out of school.') Otherwise, you run the risk of only knowing the way your school tech works--and that might screw you over later in life. I say this because my school has never run real cues for a show, never programme d a show into a lighting console, never had a stage manager call out cues--and before our new Drama teacher that came on last year, this was just 'normal.' If I hadn't researched on the internet and sat in on a couple of non-school shows, when I would have gone to work somewhere else or taken a college course--pffft, I'd be dead in the water.

    Basically though, I think that high school theater is very important, because you can learn about being in charge of things hopefully--but then again, sine every theater is really run differently, how can working somehwere else and getting a greater breadth of experience hurt?
     
  17. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    But its your universitys job to teach you that stuff. Personaly, I never want to see theatre to take the way of sports, where you have to go to a big theatre school to do well in college and therefore in life. My feeling is your high school is suppost to give you insight to "this is something you could do", not "This is how you will do it if you are working *insert big name show*". If you came out of HS knowing your stage directions and have a love for theatre then I feel you had a good HS theatre experience.
     
  18. StNic54

    StNic54 Active Member

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    Clueless:

    High School Theatre is worthwhile and widely accepted. If people are frustrating you, don't sweat it, and work with what you have with the knowledge that it will all change in a short amount of time. As per college expectations, get in touch with technical directors, designers, and professors at colleges you are interested in, and simply ask them what they look for, and what their expectations are. To get a theatre scholarship, you'll probably have to show proof of your work, and show general interest in the program. You'll find people can be very helpful and encouraging in the theatre world. Oh yeah, actors are more likely to get theatre-specific scholarships in a lot of places, so be aware.

    Your perspective on outside theatre is correct, for if nobody knows you or what you are capable of, then you'll not have any say. Not an issue. As time moves on, you'll learn your strengths, and you'll begin to make professional connections. I'd suggest working hard to get academic scholarships, and still majoring in theatre. Talk to as many people as you can, and find out what the different levels of theatre undergraduate degrees are.

    My biggest setback was that I was a BS in Communication/Arts...not a BFA, and a BS won't go as far. Look into degree requirements. As for getting involved in college theatre, my undergrad was like most others - if you are interested, just show up. Believe me, people want those that are interested to be involved. I had only done high school and community theatre before college, and I had no clue what was next. It wasn't until college that I touched a light, and I now hold my MFA in Lighting Design - and believe me when I say that the doors are open beyond my expectations, and I'm meeting new people every day.

    Don't sweat the frustrations of high school - it'll be done before you know it.

    Hope this helps,
    Nic
     
  19. moderately_clueless

    moderately_clueless Member

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    Thanks everybody. What you've said is encouraging.
     
  20. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    I'd say the HS Experience is more than enough. When I transfered into the tech theatre program during freshman orientation, they didn't even ask if I had any experience. Most Schools expect that they will need to teach the crew of the shows alot for them to operate efficiently. Most tech programs operate alongside a preformance program. the numbers in the tech program are usually significantly dwarfed by the numbers in the preformance program. Depending on the number of shows produced a season, usually actors are required to work on tech work at some point(usually not in shows their in). Actors as a whole typically don't have that much tech experience.

    On the other hand, I would Encourage you to get as much experience as you can, both in school and outside. It will give an advantage when you get to college, and you can start learning the more difficult tasks earlier.

    I had little experience when I came to school here @ Niagara University. When I started, there were only 8 techs(2 Freshman, 2 Sophmores, 2 Junior, 2 seniors) compared to about 90 actors. Last year, the program had 1 freshman, 2 sophmores, 2 juniors, and a senior. This year, we're experiencing an exponential growth in the department. We gained 5 students. we have 2 Seniors, 3 juniors, 1 sophmore, and 4 or 5 freshman. We also have another student transfering in in January and a actor planning on converting to tech next fall. In college, I have found that the best way to gain experience is to just show up at light calls, at the scene shop, ect. I'm am currently assigned as the head carpenter at the scene shop. I also have lighting units named after me, so called "Dustin lights", These are units that are in places that other people are uncomfortable or unable to get to. I'm also the only student welder at the scene shop and the person who fixes broken things(i.e. Last weekwnd, I resoldered the ends on the DMX data cable that runs our scrollers during the first tech after finding that during dry tech, the scrollers weren't working and tracing the problem to 2 of the 3 wires in the 5-pin XLR connector broken off at the solder joint.
     

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