Raising the level of Artistry; this is the motto for Associate Professor Matthew Hallock in the Dramatic Arts program. Every year, the Dramatic Arts program researches new ways of providing real-world experiences for their students and in their student productions. Their main goal for each student production is to make “The actor-audience experience as fruitful and enriching as possible”. In all aspects of a production, students are learning valuable skills such as collaboration with their peers and project management.
One significant way in which that “actor-audience relationship” has been impacted in the last few years has been through the advent of newer technologies. Computer controlled lighting has been around for decades but light sources themselves are now going through a transformation from incandescent and halogen sources to more efficient LED lights. These lights not only use more electricity and last longer, they are manufactured in ways that allow the lighting designer to not only control the intensity of the light produced, but the color as well. This advance decreases the amount of time used in the installation of the lighting and allows the artist to focus more intently on how light is impacting the scene.
This year, the Drama program has now taken an active role in incorporating a different type of technology into the realm of stage management. This type of innovation involves the usage of iPads for their stage management. Instead of having a hard-copy prompt book in a binder, the Stage Manager can pull up the script on the iPad and annotate rehearsal comments, record a stage blocking video, arrange rehearsal times, and send an updated script to all cast and crew members directly after the end of rehearsal. This way, all cast and crew members have the latest version of the script with all of the changes. In the past, the stage manager would spend long hours reproducing the hard-copy notes of the script, making copies for all members, and then trying to distribute the new changes before rehearsal. Through the use of iPads, the stage management process has proven more efficient and effective to the overall production.
So what’s coming next? On the horizon is digital production, which is something that the Drama program will be keeping a close eye on in the next few years. As Professor Hallock would say “Are we better because we are doing it this way? If not, then we need to try something else.”
“Technology is secondary,” according to Hallock. The essential goal is to provide an experience that goes beyond the latest tech gadget, lighting scheme, and all the elements that are brought together to enhance the production. Elevating the theatrical moment, which split second when an actor and an audience truly connect; that is what the work is ultimately about.
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