Graduating IU students honored for their work at national technical theater conference
May 18, 2016
The United States Institute of Theatre Technology recognized three IU students during their annual conference as part of the Young Designer's Forum. The conference, held in March in Salt Lake City, Utah, gave these students an opportunity to showcase their technical work for professionals and fellow students alike.
The three students were Kelsey Nichols, a third-year MFA student in costume design, Kristen Martino, a third-year MFA student in scenic design and Aaron Bowersox, a third-year MFA in lighting design.
"It's fairly major for us to have all three disciplines recognized," said Drew Bratton, managing director for the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.
Bratton compared the event to a basketball national championship, an event where the best of the best come out and showcase their skills.
Only 15 students in the United States are granted the opportunity to participate in this forum, receive feedback from adjudicators on their work and put their work on display in a public viewing of their portfolios.
"It's the biggest conference in the U.S. for technical theater," Nichols said. "You're already a winner just being there."
Telling a story with costumes
Nichols said the application process was an extensive one, involving submitting virtually her entire portfolio as well as letters of recommendation. Being selected with her fellow students was a worthwhile experience, though.
"It's a really great way to get your name out there," she said.
As a costume designer, Nichols said she looks at the script, the actors and the materials in order to weave together a character's wardrobe.
"Basically I'm a storyteller through clothes," she said.
Recently, Nichols said she designed the costumes for "Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play" which proved to be an interesting challenge due to the nature of the pop culture characters from the television series "The Simpsons."
For Nichols, the fascination with costumes comes from a general fascination with people and how they choose to dress and present themselves. Manipulating that in a character, even if it isn't done through her original design plans, is part of why she loves her work.
"As a designer, I expect my designs to grow," she said. "I pride myself on being very flexible."
Creating a mood with lighting
Bowersox said four of the 15 students in the forum were lighting designers, but that impressive showing wasn't what surprised him most.
Not only did Bowersox meet the designers and managers he was expecting during the event, but he also encountered a host of undergraduate students wanting to further their careers and potentially continue their education.
"It was rewarding to me," he said.
Bowersox said he has been working on a wide variety of projects across the country in the last few years.
"I think a lot of my new work got me recognized a little bit more," he said.
Currently, Bowersox is working with the Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute in Hilton Head, South Carolina to prepare for their productions of "Catch Me if You Can" and "Pippin," which will take place near the end of this summer. He said he is pleased with how the meetings are going and that a good production staff is part of what makes a show come together cohesively.
Creating a mood is what Bowersox said he loves most about his job. He loves being able to use lighting designs to draw an audience into a moment and a feeling.
"I always love being able to work with multiple different aspects of a show," he said.
Bowersox also presented work at the Hemsley Lighting Programs Annual Lighting Portfolio Review in April at Lincoln Center in New York City. During a two-day conference, he was able to present a portfolio of his work to professionals in the field along with other third-year graduate students.
Building an onstage environment
Martino said the scenic design for "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson," IU Theatre's most recent musical production, was her thesis work.
"I really took the set in a more grounded approach," she said, acknowledging all the glitz and flair that is piled on top of it in the form of costumes and characters.
She also said one of her best scenic designs came out of IU Theatre's production of "Romeo and Juliet," presented in March 2015.
"We really tried to focus on the passion that drives each character," she said.
The design for the show focused on light, with large windows letting light into the scene from an imaginary outside sun or inside party, she said.
Martino said people often compare her work to that of an architect. To her, it is much more than that. "I'm not just creating a building," she said. "I'm creating an environment onstage."
All three students graduated this month, Bratton said.