A stage production requires a multitude of talents both on stage and off. To prepare students for the important behind-the-scenes roles at professional theatre companies, North Central College has launched a new academic program of study.
The College’s new major in theatrical design and technology complements existing majors in theatre and musical theatre, and allows students to develop expertise by working with accomplished faculty and gaining hands-on experiences. Overseeing the new major is Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bracken, assistant professor of theatre, who has developed curriculum offerings to ensure students develop talents in a range of disciplines. “Over the next few years we will continue to add courses to support the major,” says Bracken.
Next year, North Central will supplement its offerings with a new course in Costume Design and a continuing Fundamentals of Design course. A class in Collaboration and an advanced course called Drafting, Rendering and Model making will focus on the skills required to be a scenic designer. In addition, the curriculum covers stagecraft, makeup, lighting and stage management. Students gain broader exposure to the discipline of theatre through courses in acting, history and literature, and direction.
North Central College’s many performing arts venues provide state-of-the-art, real-world “classrooms” for practicing and applying technical skills. “We are so lucky to have such a vibrant production calendar,” says Bracken of the nine annual theatre department shows.
The new major builds on the experiences that students are already gaining in their theatre studies and campus productions. “North Central is very much in the forefront of technical theatre design,” says Eve Bowman ’15, a theatre major who managed hair and makeup for the recent production of “Shout! The Mod Musical.” “We, as theatre majors, are well aware of how everyone must work together in order to create spectacular shows. It creates a sense of respect for people who do these jobs.”
Bracken came to North Central College in 2013, bringing extensive experience in teaching scenic design and scenic painting and working with architecture firms in England and New York. She’s worked in scenic design and costume design with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Hypocrites, The Neo-Futurists, Theatre Seven and more. She holds a bachelor of architecture from the University of Notre Dame and an M.F.A. in theatrical design from the University of Texas at Austin.
“We also encourage students to look outside North Central for experiences that will help them grow as theatre artists,” adds Bracken. “Our students are actively pursuing professional internships, and faculty provide opportunities for students to work with them on productions in Chicago.”
Recently, a theatrical design and technology student assisted at The Other Theatre Company with “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992,” which was produced by theatre department chair Carin Silkaitis. “I’ve also had several students assist me on productions in Chicago, and I hope to find even more opportunities for students to work with me as their skills and knowledge grow.”