In this issue
- Note from the Chair
- Listing of Officers and Positions in the Section
- Design Expo Coordinator
- "Innovative Uses of Technology for Accessible Teaching, or Improvise, Adapt, Overcome" Tony Penna
- Master Classes
- Regional Offerings
From the Chair
Hello USITT-SE Members,
It was great to see so many of you at SETC and USITT also thank you for the large turnout and lively conversation at the national conference. We have elections happening now for Treasurer, Secretary and Vice-Chair for Membership so please vote. The candidates are few, but this is an important process and hopefully we can grow the pool in the coming years.
I am looking forward to seeing all of you at this year’s Master Classes at UNC-Greensboro September 6-7. We are looking for future hosts, therefore if anyone is interested, please contact our Master Class Advisor, John Saari
I would like to thank Robin Jaffe for his many years of service as the region’s webmaster and welcome Ken Martin as the new webmaster.
As always please feel free to contact any Executive Committee member if you have any questions or concerns regarding USITT-SE. My email is email@example.com and I would love to hear your ideas.
Please Support Our Sponsors!
We have some great sponsors that have been very generous to the section. They are featured throughout the QR so please give them your thanks by supporting their products. I'm sure they would love to hear that you know of them and support them because of their support of the USITT-SE section.
USITT - Southeast Regional Section Officers 18/19
David Navalinsky, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (919) 962-1557
Vice -Chair for Relations
Audrey Hamilton, Bethel University, Mckenzie, TN
Vice -Chair for Membership
Vandy Scoates, Limestone College, (714 ) 401-0514
Tom Burch, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, (607) 793-1275
Matt Leckenbusch, Clemson University, (864) 656-3043
We have three positions up for election: Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice-Chair for Membership.
Matthew Leckenbusch is running unopposed for the position of Treasurer.
Tom Burch is running unopposed for the position of Secretary.
Vandy Scoates is running unopposed for the position of Vice-Chair for Membership.
Please follow the link below to vote on these candidates or your write-in choice. If you have questions about the process or interest in serving the section in the future, please contact Dave Navalinsky.
Section Needs a Design Expo Coordinator
We are in need of a Design Expo Coordinator. This role includes helping to set up the design expo at local sites, selecting and working with adjudicators in understanding the rules and and awards criteria for expo participants. The coordinator will also provide service and guidance in the application process for expo participants. Please contact David Navalinsky if you have interest or know someone that would be a great fit for this role.
We can post your open positions in this newsletter! Just e-mail the position, location or institution, and a link to the official posting. We will post it for members to see. Just click the email button below (Please put "Jobs" in the subject line).
Teaching stage lighting in a classroom is always an adventure. I try to get the students out of their seats and out from behind computer screens as often as possible, getting our hands on fixtures, light boards, and other technology as much we can. As with any visual medium, you can talk about it only so much; you simply must look, touch, and play with the medium in order for real learning to take place.
I had an interesting experience last year with a student with disabilities. I’d like to share the experience with you in an effort to further the discussion about methods for making the teaching of theatre accessible to all students. Note that during the semester I never once referred to this situation as a challenge because I didn’t want to put a negative stigma on the experience for Lucy or for me. I don’t think I ever actually put a label on it; it just was.
Allow me to set the stage for you. I teach stage lighting at Clemson University in South Carolina. My classroom is a computer lab with 14 student desks, a dry erase board, a video projector, and a projection screen for displaying the desktop computer at the instructor’s desk. Our labs are held in a 50’x50’ black box theatre using primarily ETC equipment: S4 Jr. Zooms, PARnels, an Ion, an Express 48/96, and starting last fall a Gio@5 (super excited about this upgrade!). The theatre has a tension wire grid so that students can safely walk right up to the lights. Grades are based on two tests, a number of projects, and students are required to attend two theatre productions.
Clemson University has a program called Digital Production Arts (DPA) which offers an undergraduate minor, a Master of Science, and a Master of Fine Arts (ironically, DPA is housed in the engineering college rather than the arts college – long story). Students in this program create computer animations along the lines of Dreamworks and Pixar films. Many graduates from this program work for companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Rhythm and Hues, Industrial Light and Magic, and Red Storm Entertainment. Last summer I was thrilled to see a former student’s name in the credits of the Han Solo movie!
My stage lighting class is one of the classes in the DPA curriculum. Many DPA students come from a computer science background, so my job is primarily to teach them how to read and analyze a script and think about the choices a lighting designer needs to make in order to light the scene and help tell the story. Class projects were typical for an introductory stage lighting class. We worked with spot and wash fixtures, learning safe practices to hang, circuit, and focus. I assigned a number of projects where students would light models, dress forms, and classmates. We read plays and discussed how to light the stage in order to reflect the setting of each scene and reflect the themes of the play. The semester culminated with a mini rock concert lighting project where students would use a small scale lighting rig with Gantom LED spot and flood lights to light an articulated figure in time with a song of the students’ choosing. The cues are programmed by one of my advanced students or by me since we do not have enough time in the semester to go too far into programming with Eos software. I find that it’s a great project for the end of the semester because it synthesizes everything we’ve learned over the course of the semester, and since the students don’t do the programming themselves they are forced to articulate their design ideas to a programmer.
I had an exciting opportunity last semester to teach stage lighting to a student with disabilities. She gave me permission to write this article, but she asked that I not use her name, so I will call her Lucy. Lucy was nearly deaf; she had cochlear implants for which I wore a microphone, and she came to class with one or two ASL interpreters. One of those interpreters had been a theatre minor back when she was in college and was very excited to be a part of my class! Lucy was also completely blind in one eye and had limited vision in the other. She could see for about 24 inches, and then her vision turned fuzzy. She was a DPA minor and was very interested in learning about lighting. I saw her sketches, which were quite good and showed attention to light, shadow, and reflection.
So how do you teach a visual medium to a student who is visually impaired? I had to make some significant adjustments to my teaching methods in order to accommodate Lucy and her interpreters. I spoke slower and took pauses so that the Lucy could watch the interpreter, then look at the screen to see what I was talking about. The university’s Student Accessibility Services office hired a classroom assistant for me. She was one of my lighting students who had completed the class and could work with Lucy and answer her questions while I worked with other students in another part of the black box. Lucy took her tests in the test proctoring center where she was allowed 3x the regular time to complete exams. I made all of her handouts Tahoma 24 point font to help her see them. I also took it upon myself to learn a bit of ASL: good morning, good afternoon, yes, thank you, and you’re welcome. I couldn’t sign to her any of the actual course content, but I hoped that learning these phrases made the class a welcoming environment for her. I also learned how deaf people applaud, which the rest of the class quickly did as well when she presented her work. It looks sort of like “jazz hands,” where you hold up your open hands and give them a slight shake at the wrist. Lucy’s interpreters also used haptics, where one interpreter would communicate with her by placing their hands on her arms and back while Lucy kept her eyes on the other interpreter or on a computer screen.
Having lived with her disabilities for nearly her whole life, Lucy started the semester already adept at using technology to her advantage. We used Adobe Connect so that my screen was mirrored on her laptop, which she could put in her range of vision. She also used accessibility tools on her laptop to zoom in on the screen. I noticed that she had one of those custom keyboard covers on her laptop that was just the normal keyboard letters enlarged so she could see them easier. When I wrote on the dry erase board, she would use hold her tablet in her range of vision and use the camera to zoom in on the writing. As I mentioned, I wore a microphone to help her hear me through her cochlear implants. Unfortunately I walked off with the microphone one day and taught another class with it on. Oops. Bonus learning for Lucy, I guess. I also sent her my PowerPoint slides and handouts a day or more in advance so she could study them before coming to class.
A touring production played in our road house one night during the semester. Before I knew about Lucy, I had decided that this would be one of the productions that the class was required to attend. In order to make the production accessible to her, we took several steps. First, I provided Lucy and her interpreters with a copy of the script from the university library, so they could learn the story ahead of time. Prior to their arrival, we explained to the touring company that we had a deaf blind student who was required to attend the performance for class, and asked if we could video record the show so she could watch it later on a screen. They agreed on the condition that the recording be destroyed when she was done with it. Finally, we set up a small area in one of the theatre boxes for Lucy to sit with her interpreters while they signed the performance to her. This part was not necessary, since she could read the play and watch the recording later, but it was our duty to give her the same opportunities and experiences as the rest of the class. I must say with some pride that during half hour Lucy told me this was her first time ever attending a theatre performance.
Following the semester, we had new adjustments to make. Over the summer, Lucy had surgery for her eyes, which left her completely blind. She only needed one more class in order to graduate. In the fall of 2018, she enrolled in a new class I taught called Digital Lighting, where we focused on lighting for film and animations, and explored some of the lighting tools in the software programs that the DPA students use. A future article will detail our work in this class, our new methods of communication, and our use of technology to accommodate Lucy.