I've been working in theater since high school and chose to attend a school for Theatre
Technology and Design. The only issue is, most schools focus more on the design part, and only touch the technology part. Right now, I have no desire to design. I really enjoy entertainment electrician work, hanging lights, programming light boards, building and wiring practicals, and have really enjoyed my time working at school as a theater master electrician
for our shows. The point
is, I really want to find a school that can teach me more about what I want to do, rather than force a design agenda on me while I learn about what I want to do on my own.
, there certainly are a lot of schools that are much more "design-centric" than technology focused, and I think that comes a lot from the schools not wanting to feel like a vocational program. However, as @derekleffew
mentioned, there are schools that do put an emphasis on technology and Ithaca College
is one of those schools. I am somewhat biased, being an alum, but the flip side to that coin is that, if theatre
is where you see yourself, you can't spit in NYC/Broadway without hitting an IC alum. Not to mention, our alumni network
expands all over the country in theatre
and other entertainment markets. I certainly came out of that program feeling prepared to take on the jobs that I did, and it is great to know that there are people who I can call
on, even if we never really met, who are happy to offer guidance and insight.
All that said, I do agree with some of the other folks who have posted. You want a well rounded education that not only includes technology and lighting, but design in all areas of the industry. I certainly am not a costume person, but, the fact that I had to take basic costuming classes and courses like "History of Costume and Decor" really helped me be able to interface with other departments. It gives you the background knowledge to understand what people are talking about when they talk about periods or styles or other design choices. It gives you the vocabulary to really communicate and develop ideas. It also makes it much easier when a costumer comes to you needing help with some kind of light up costume to be able to offer help in an intelligent and functional way.
If you look for them, there are programs that will satisfy whatever direction you feel you would like to take in the industry. They best programs are the ones that help you grow and foster the sense of where you would like to go. Some schools have developed reputations for what they send
their graduates off to. Carnegie Melon University and Emmerson both have the reputation of sending graduates off into the liver performance world (award shows, concerts, events, etc
.). CalArts has a very good program and can set you up on a path to work for Walt Disney Imagineering. Then you have schools like Ithaca and NYU that really lean more towards traditional theatre
being, what you want is out there!
Now, to play
my own devil's advocate... There are also plenty of people who have made it big in the industry without completing or even attending college, or a college theatre
program. As some folks mentioned, it is possible to get in with your local union, or a rental shop, or maybe even just start working at a local theatre
and building skills and connections. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a path like this. The most important thing when choosing such a path, is that you need to be humble. Your high school experience counts for next to nothing, you have to OK with pushing boxes and coiling cables when you start out. It is likely that you will be working your way up from the bottom of the ladder. This is a great way to learn and get experience, just know that it may not be glamorous. However, one could argue that it is a lot cheaper than going to college.
While I personally advocate for people to go to school, I also tell people that they should go in open minded. If you take a gen-ed in biology and find you really enjoy it, you want to be open to pursuing it. Theatre
and entertainment will always be there and it is easy to come back to or do as a hobby, but if you find something else that really strikes a chord
with you, it may be worth doing.
brought it up, it looks like you are a little over an hour from Lititz, PA, which is where I am located now, working for TAIT Towers. While it was a bit
of a departure from my background in lighting, as a controls technician it wasn't too much of a jump. We do some pretty wild stuff in the world of automation and staging so I would encourage you to come down and visit if you can. Also, we offer summer internships for people your age, and it is the kind of thing that you would want to start talking to our HR folks about soon if it is something you might be interested in as internship positions are highly coveted and go fast. Certainly give me a shout if you want to know more or come down and see what we are about.