The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Tech Theater Class

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by bhallerm, Jan 24, 2009.

  1. bhallerm

    bhallerm Member

    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    OK, this is for HS and college tech directors as well as the pro's in the biz. I'm asking for a bit of guidance here. Bear with this...it might be a little long but I appreciate all the help in advance.

    -Quick Background: Was hired as a HS tech director for a local private HS in August. Nice place, 600 seat proscenium theater, 22 line counterweight flyline system, Yamaha LS9-32 console, ProTools for recording (along with some of my toys) a solid collection of Colortran lekos, few S4's, Fresnels, pars, and two VariLite VL1000's all controlled by our wonderful paperweight, the Colortran Innovator 48/96.

    My education is in Audio Engineering (A.A.S) and Music Education (B.M.Ed) and have taught previously, but in band settings. I was tapped to teach a tech theater class this year. This is a good thing. The challenge is that I am making the whole curriculum on short notice. The last class was taught by someone not real "technical" and from what I hear was centered more on costuming, set prep, acting,...not technical. There were some complaints about this since we also had an exploration of theater.

    So, I'm going hardcore technical with it. I've separated the semester into three segments: Stage safety and rigging, Audio and lighting. I'm trying to balance how much info I lecture on and doing activities. I have the kids for a hour and twenty minutes three times a week. I have tons of knowledge on sound since I've been running a private business as a recording engineer for 5 years and a decent amount on light that I've learned quick, but I need to develop some good exercises or in class activities.

    Here are the books that I'm referencing either from past education or recent reading:

    -Stage Rigging Handbook: Jay Glerum
    -Practical Guide to Stage Lighting: Steven L. Shelley
    -Stage Lighting Design: Neil Fraser
    -Live Sound Reinforcement: Scott Hunter Stark
    -Modern Recording Techniques: David Miles Huber
    -Backstage Handbook is floating around for reference

    Any other good places to gain info?? I need help mostly in lighting, especially the "theoretical" or "design" side. The tech part of what light is what, how to assign things, how many lights can I use on this dimmer isn't hard. It's learning (and I know this is the hard part) a "style" of using the right light, color, gobo for certain scenes, etc.

    I'll stop here and hopefully get a discussion on this. If you read through it all and are still awake....thank you. :mrgreen:

    BJH
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2009
  2. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,329
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Well, I'm not any of those things listed, but I'll try to give some idea of what I, as a high school student, would want to learn. I am in a unique situation at my school, as my TD knows little to nothing about lighting, so I am responsible for training lighting crews from scratch. Apparently, I may be helping my TD to teach lighting next year if we get a tech theatre class as planned.

    For lighting, I am of the opinion that students should first be able to operate as a stage hand before doing anything else. So the first thing I teach is always an intro to instruments. I go into the theatre and show them the basics of each instrument - generally, just enough to make them proficient at focusing. After all that, I will give them an intro to the board. I always program the board before tech week, but I teach them enough so that I can call out changes during a tech rehearsal and they can do them. Over time, they gradually learn more about all this stuff, but I don't want to burn out anyone too quickly by telling them everything there is to know about an instrument or a board.

    Now onto design. One thing you may find is that not everyone wants to be a designer. It takes time and creativity and dedication to do right, and I have worked with many students who just want to be electricians, and that's totally fine. But when teaching design, you shouldn't come from the standpoint of "when you need night, use R80 - when you need forest, use this gobo" and such. After briefly explaining the functions and properties of light, I will let them play around in a light lab in the theatre. I set up instruments in many positions (straight-in fronts, McCandless fronts, Box Booms, Tops, Backs, Hi Sides, Head Highs, Mids, Shins, Foot Lights, and whatever else I think of) all centered on a point as CS. I hang both Ellipsoidals and Fresnels in most of the positions as well. This first light lab is always done without color. I have someone stand on CS, and then each person plays around with each instrument on the board. This is a fun way to start design, and it gives them an awesome introduction to what positions will do what, so when I start talking about side light, they can visualize what it looks like. We do this for about a week usually, and by the end of the week they can create pretty convincing looks without color.

    At a later time, we come back into the "light lab" for some work with color. I generally provide between 6-8 color choices, all cut and framed, and we try our best to regel as we go. Since we are only lighting one area, I can usually get at least 3 or 4 instruments hung which I can leave gelled, which cuts down on time needed to replace the gels. This session is really fun, and they end up creating some spectacular looks on stage. After a while of doing this, we take a break while I have them design a plot for lighting a specific scene (using only that one area), without restrictions on color. We come back in and the plot is set up for each student, and they design that mini-scene. It's recorded as a sub and photographed, and that's basically the "final project" for them. By this time, we are ready to start working on the school's next show, so they become electricians and board ops and such and we work on that. I'm the designer for our major school shows, but they will generally get to work any of the shows that rent out the space. From this point on, they generally get experience by working and following along as I design the show. This is where the reality sets in that you can't delegate 18 instruments to one single look in the show for most high school productions.

    So in summary, the vast majority of this is hands-on work. There is a lot that can't be taught via practical experimentation, however, so we spend some time in a lecture situation (which is basically just us sitting in the theatre with me talking). If I were teaching a class on this, I would probably incorporate a little more "book work", but since this is all voluntary and there's no grade or anything, I have to keep it as interesting as possible while still teaching.

    I'm not sure if this is anywhere near what you're looking for, but I hope it helps in some tiny way.
     
  3. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,506
    Likes Received:
    2,925
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    A few texts come to mind. All of the below spend at least as much time on design as execution.

    Hays, David. Light on the Subject, Stage Lighting for Directors and Actors and the Rest of Us. Limelight Editions, 1998.
    Essig, Linda. Lighting and the Design Idea. Harcourt Brace, 1997.
    Palmer, Richard H. The Lighting Art: The Aesthetics of Stage Lighting Design. Prentice-Hall, 1985.
    Bellman, Willard F. Lighting the Stage, Art and Practice. Chandler Publishing Company, 1967.
    McCandless, Stanley. A Method of Lighting the Stage. Theatre Arts Books, 1932.

    I learned from the Bellman book.
    Every lighting student should read McCandless, in its original form.
    Essig's book is my favorite of the "modern" texts.

    EDIT: Here is a syllabus for a course in stage lighting, granted for the college senior level, by Ass't. Prof. Larry Wild, of Northern State Univ., Aberdeen, SD. It concurs with much, if not all, of what [user]rochem[/user] stated above.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2009
  4. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    4,411
    Likes Received:
    826
    Occupation:
    Projectionist
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    So, am I correct in perusing your post that you will not be doing scenery in this class?

    How advanced are your students?

    For lighting, a good reference is Photometrics Handbook, 2nd Edition By Robert C. Mumm.

    A necessity for safety is Practical Health & Safety Guidelines for School Theater Operations by Randall Davidson, 2005.

    A good general text is Stagecraft 1 by William H. Lord, 1991.

    Oh, I'll think of more when I get home, I'm sure.
     
  5. maccor

    maccor Member

    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    BJH,
    I teach three levels of tech theatre to high school students. That includes a Career Education (vocational) Entertainment Technology and Technical Theatre program...

    I would also ask the question "How advanced are your students?".

    For what equates to a Tech Theatre I class, I teach Stage Directions/Safety/Theatre terms, Basic Tools (power and hand), Building Materials, Hardware, how to read a scale rule/draw a basic floorplan/elevation, flats/platforming, a few scene painting techniques, introduction to stage make-up, basic electricity, Stage Lighting Instruments and how to hang/plug/basic focus, and parts of a Sound system and how to connect up a microphone/other input. That takes a 55 minute class every day for a semester. We don't use a textbook, and every lesson is project based, no powerpoints, and minimal lecturing/note taking.

    Tech II would include similiar topics, but more in depth. We explore the design process and how it is used for scenic and lighting. More in-depth scene painting. Then programming our lighting console. We will introduce the concept of moving lights and dmx control. Parts of the sound console explored and effects. Students would design a set for a play with drawings. Again, we don't use a textbook, and every lesson is project based, no powerpoints, and minimal lecturing/note taking, and that is also a semester class.

    It is not my goal to make students super techs in the class, but rather give them a fairly broad overview and hands on experience in the major areas of tech. I have talked to a few local university professors and they feel the material covered and experience provided is an ideal base of skills for the high school level.

    We have a great arts center and a well equipped shop, so I can do project based learning instead of a text. It's more work to plan and prep, but I have found my students learn with much more excitement, and that perpetuates enrollment in the class and their involvement in our after school extra curricular program.

    Feel free to PM me if want more details.

    Mike
     
  6. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

    Messages:
    654
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    That's a really good question, and I wonder about other schools frequently.

    At my high school, we only have one section of technical theater, so I mix new students with old. The emphasis for me is proper use of equipment, and design is secondary. We are also the workforce for the school, so the bulk of class time is taken up by setting up for other events, rentals or otherwise. As far as how advanced, my students should be able to fit in professionally with any crew, and can run basic lighting and sound equipment. They understand how to read construction plans and plots, and generate basic versions of each. I am trying to add an emphasis on concert setups, since there are plenty of decent paying jobs for music groups in our area.
     
    dramatech and (deleted member) like this.
  7. maccor

    maccor Member

    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    It is good to hear about what other schools do. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own world, we forget to explore what others are doing and that they might have some cool things to try...

    I try to keep set-up of concerts and events to a minimum within the class. While they do provide good experience, I like to keep class seperate from the extra-curricular work. That way, I don't risk hearing about it from administration who might wonder why "class" time isn't being spent on instruction. The set-ups could be considered instruction, but it doesn't neccesarily fit into the curriculumn. And it doesn't seem we have enough time during the semester to do much more than we are already learning.


    But, good to hear about what other schools do.
     
  8. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

    Messages:
    654
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    My school is the other way around - in order to justify the existence of the technical theater class, we are expected do to all of the setup for events. When I have tried to minimize that to emphasize instruction I get called out on it.
     
  9. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Yeah, for us, theater tech class is basically just Theater Cleanup crew, like in all seriousness, we have to clean up all the tools sheds/cage/everywhere after some otehr play that we had nothing to do with finishes and leaves a giant mess with.

    Sure, sometimes we get the "priviledge" of painting the stage, and sure, I voluntarily partake in many of the schools theatrical style events, but the tech CLASS itself, is little about tech, and alot about "Go to the theater, do whatevever you want, learn something, oh, and make sure you clean up ___ this area before you go"
     
  10. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,506
    Likes Received:
    2,925
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    Well, that just seems wrong. I suppose the Auto Shop class (do schools still have Auto Shop?) has to repair the principal's car also?

    OTOH, I suppose you're fortunate to even have a Technical Theatre class at the HS-level. Mine didn't, in the 1970s.:(
     
  11. thommyboy

    thommyboy Active Member

    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    14
    What I look to do when I am able to run my Tech Theatre class is build bit by bit in the semester so that at the end there is a small "show" of the student work for a final.
    We being the semester with scene shop safety and stage craft. Student will construct a 3x8 Studio Flat. That takes us through the 1st two to three weeks.
    Following construction we move on to scene painting techniques. We divide the flat into 6 areas creating wet blends, gradients, dry brushing, schepitka (or however you spell feather dusting), a small Trompe-l'œil.
    That takes a good 3 weeks to do properly.
    After those we do a section on platform construction, legging techniques and scene design. This takes 3 weeks and leads into the mid term of a small scene design from any number of scripts.
    The 2nd quarter is split between sound design and light design. The students will being with speaker placement and some selection of musical pieces to support a scene. As well as creating a small lighting plot. Both the lighting and sound build into their final project where using their flat they design a lighting design to go with a sound design to go with their paint treatment for a single engaging 'performance piece'
     
  12. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

    Messages:
    654
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Several of the Phoenix districts have dropped woodshop, autoshop, electronics, and other informal vocational classes in favor of a central training school students can opt to attend in the afternoons. The downside is that the school is really only for students who want to do the vocation for a living - not for kids who want to dabble in autos so they can maintain their own car. Lately I've tried to promote my class during registration periods as part of the life skills program - I'll teach you how to safely do small maintenance, work with lumber, electricity, etc.
     
  13. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    9,462
    Likes Received:
    1,870
    Location:
    Saratoga Springs, NY
    My only question is not the "rentals" question, but whats your production season like. Personally, I try to get as much lecture and labs in as possible, but I find myself in the midst of a built fairly often with my students. Its a balancing act on that one.
     
  14. maccor

    maccor Member

    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    Our season is four "mainstage" productions, 2 musicals and 2 straight shows. If we have a lesson that could be done and it benefits the current production being built, we might do that. As an example, we were doing a unit on flats, and built them to the specs we needed for the show. We also do four student produced shows. Those get more student class work, but it tends to come from our Tech Prep class, and not our intro classes. Seems like we are always trying to squeeze so much into the class time as it is...Might be easier on me if I just had them build for the show, but I don't look at the class that way. Personal preference...

    Sayen - We have our "vocational" programs included in our high school, a comprehensive high school. Our Technical Theatre Tech Prep class is new this year and would be considered a "vocational" class. Of the 12 students, I think 4 might go onto studying theatre in college. Another 4 might do a little with it post high school. The rest are just in there because they find it interesting, but have no intention of doing anything after high school. We just went through our recruitment expo for next year. We tell prospective students that it isn't just Theatre. We try to show students how the skills learned have a broader range of careers and jobs available. With that and trying to cater to both artistic and techy types, the program has a fairly significant appeal to a large group of students. They certainly learn life skills, but I don't promote that....Maybe I should...sounds like a good idea.

    Mike
     
  15. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

    Messages:
    654
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    We do four 'mainstage' productions a year, more or less spaced two per semester - that build does keep us busy. Those may include plays, musicals, or short play festivals, depending on my mood. I don't mind being busy with my projects, since I can usually turn them into learning opportunities, but outside events are usually more rushed and involve less learning.
     
  16. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,778
    Likes Received:
    2,843
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    When I was teaching high school theater I taught a semester class 50 minutes 5 days a week. During first semester it was a lot of heavy lecture with demos. Second semester was all hands on building a big show. Students had to survive the first semester to be welcomed onto the crew and into the second semester fun.

    My first semester course covered a little bit of everything concluding with a long assignment where students had to do a design for a short script. They turned in a portfolio of drawings and did a presentation for the class of a set design, lighting design, props plot, costume sketches... the works.

    With lighting I was heavy on the physics, science, McCandless. All that good stuff. Although students didn't have a text book I referenced MANY of the books listed above. Although I did hands on stuff it wasn't nearly as hands on as some of the others have described. I really wanted to sort students out with this class so I made it pretty rough in places and lighting was the roughest spot.

    Today I'm teaching at a Community College. I teach an "Intro to Tech theater" class. 40 hours of class to teach a little bit of EVERYTHING. I use Technical Theater for non-technical people by Drew Campbell as my text. I love this book it's really easy and fun to read and has a chapter or two on just about everything in theater. I think it would be a great book for a high school introductory tech classes as well. Not a lot of depth to the book, but that's not what my course is about.

    As for teaching lighting. All the ideas so far are great. I like to get the instruments out and break them down, draw diagrams of how the light bounces around inside them. I do a demo starting with a bare 60 watt light bulb on stage. Then I put a mirror on one side, then a curved reflector, then I switch to a fresnel... we are building the instrument piece by piece as I discuss the history of lighting development and talk about the inverse square law.

    For lighting design I get the students comfortable seeing the differences in different fixtures first. Then I break out artwork. We do a series of designs based on paintings. "If this picture was a set placed on our stage, how what lighting instruments would you use and where would you place them in order to create this specific look." I use a variety of pictures starting from really simple ones (a close up of a fruit bowl on a black background) to very complex ones (A huge forest scene with a variety of shadows and what appears to be multiple light sources that don't work in the real world). Remember to stress with students that unless an area is COMPLETELY black in the picture it has light coming from somewhere. Concepts of key vs. fill lighting becomes very clear very quickly.

    Finally, I would be VERY concerned about your plan to teach rigging. While you should teach fly system component names and operation, I think your district risk management people would go nuts if they learned a student was doing any other sort of rigging. I'm all for empowering students but rigging is an area that should only be done by trained adults. Unless you had a really good hard core rigger on staff supervising their every move, I would never go any farther than lineset operations with high school students. It would take years of training with a very special student to convince me to allow them to load an arbor. They don't allow students to load at the highschool I occasionally work at. Heck, I know a University that is so safety concscious, they don't teach a rigging class and don't allow grad students to do anything more than operate linesets and throw weights.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2014
  17. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

    Messages:
    654
    Likes Received:
    44
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Interesting...when I had a traditional lineset system I did allow students to load weight, but only with a clear stage and supervision from the deck. When they were done, I always had to climb to the top to inspect their work. I see where you're coming from, but the logistics of doing something as simple as a lighting hang would become problematic without their assistance. This may be from the mentality I've experienced here where the technical class is grunt labor for the most part, and treated as hired stagehands without the pay.
     
  18. Anvilx

    Anvilx Active Member

    Messages:
    647
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Austin,Texas
    The number one thing I wish a teacher had taught me would be proper lighting design, knowing were and how to use lights. So, I beg you to teach it to your students.

    Tom
     
  19. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Agreed!

    My first show, I had lights pointing straight down, and zones that were lit from 2 lights side by side.

    Only after did I find out about the Maccandles method, and how it's actually supposed to work.
     
  20. bhallerm

    bhallerm Member

    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    Wow, thank you all for your replies. I was hoping that this would promote a solid discussion.

    I sent a few PM's so forgive me if I say something redundant or leave something out.

    I have two groups of kids I work with. My core group of techies and my class. Only two of the former are in the latter. My techies are fairly experienced, so this class is more baseline.

    -Let me make one note on my "rigging". I guess I should call it fly line operation more than rigging. My students do help with loading, especially close to the stage. I only trust certain ones to load from the bridge above and even then, I'm always there to keep an eye on that.

    I've been giving an overview of that system over last week and today and I'm probably moving on after that. Short time?? maybe, but I think that soon as you hang a light on it, it's lighting, etc. So, I may be off base there, but I plan to be safety conscious when dealing with anything off the ground.

    I'm not doing set design in this class. Our art teacher has a good amount of theatrical background and he is always the one that heads up the set construction and design for our productions. I could definitely work together with him for some things if we incorporated set building in the class.

    This is what our space use and production year looks like.
    -Two weekly assemblies/chapel. We are a private christian school and we have guest speakers, praise bands, etc. each week.
    -Fine arts concerts take up most of the auditorium's time in the early fall. We have one theatrical production that runs in mid november. After that, it's concert season through the first week of January.
    -January contains a student showcase of 7 or so student directed, one act plays. We just had this last weekend.
    -February is our Madrigal Dinner where we remodel our gym into a medieval castle and serve a 6 course meal to paying guests while 20+ actors perform on a stage in front. This is in two weeks. We get to rip everything out of our auditorium and put it up in the gym. It's a great time.
    -Concerts ensue until March when the spring play starts rehearsal. Spring production is in April. We do musicals every other year. This is not a musical year. We are doing Neil Simon's Fools this spring. Just got word last week.

    I'm moving into audio next since the madrigal is more of an audio nightmare than lighting, whereas the spring play is less sound design and more lighting. I'm starting with a basic discussion of sound and how it reacts. Cover topics like frequency, amplitude, etc. then basically work my way down the chain of signal flow from microphone to speakers. Since we have it, I'm also going to touch on basic ProTools since that is where we do all of our SFX editing and recording.

    -Lighting. I would like to talk about light in an environment and how light sources actually "light" people and things. Since I've had this job, I can't look at anything without asking, "Where is the light source(s)?? What type of light is it?? What color would you call that?? Then moving into what light fixtures we have and how they operate. I like the idea of "building" the fixture as we go so they can understand how the lights work. Since we don't have a ton of variety in our lights, (Colortran lekos of varying angles, a couple S4's, Altman fresnels, pars, and two VariLite VL1000) I can spend some time with each. I'd also like to go into color and basic DMX. These are the two parts that I'm not as strong with. I'm not looking for them to come out programming DMX in their sleep, but at least have a general understanding of it. If they knew how to patch a dimmer number to a channel and make a subgroup on our board, life would be great.

    -One nice thing is that our school environment is heavily academic oriented and the kids are used to high demands. I'm not saying this to brag, just to realize what I'm working with. People pay a lot of money to come to our school, so it is a bit of a surreal academic environment. Behavior issues are few and far between so I can push the limit somewhat.

    Once again, I'll leave it there so the discussion can continue. I thank you all for the suggestions, pointers, and sometimes warnings.:oops: Since I have the fun of re-building this class I'll try and keep everyone updated on what's working and what's not.

    BJH
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice