You reached this page through the archive. Click here to return to the archive.

Note: This article is over a year old and information contained in it may no longer be accurate. Please use the contact information in the lower-left corner to verify any information in this article.

Students showcase theatrical talent at conferences

By Apoorva Pasricha '14 and Kari VanDerVeen
April 30, 2012

St. Olaf students (clockwise, from bottom left) Libby Porter '13, Ryan Evans '12, Ben Golden '12, and Ben Olsen '13 recently showcased their work and networked with theater professionals at conferences. Photo by Steven Wett '15

Four St. Olaf students recently showcased their theatrical work and networked with theater professionals at several conferences.

Three of the students — Ben Golden '12, Libby Porter '13, and Ben Olsen '13 — showcased their theater design work at the regional United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) conference and earned scholarships to attend the renowned institute's national conference.

The fourth student, Ryan Evans '12, was one of three undergraduate students invited to showcase their work at the recent Mid-America Theatre Conference in Chicago.

All of the students earned scholarships to attend the conferences. The St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program provided funding to Golden and Porter to attend the regional USITT conference, and to Evans to attend the Mid-America Theatre Conference. At the regional USITT conference, Golden and Porter earned two of the five scholarships that the institute awards to both graduate and undergraduate students to attend its national conference.

Olsen attended the conference through a Magnus the Good grant that he and Associate Professor of Theater and Department Chair Brian Bjorklund received from St. Olaf's Center for Integrative Studies (CIS) to study the architecture and design of theaters.

From regional to national USITT conference
Golden, Porter, and Olsen all participated in the young designer showcase at the USITT's Northern Boundary Regional Section conference, each showing their work from the St. Olaf production of Savage/Love & Tongues. Olsen presented his scenic design work, Golden his lighting design work, and Porter her costume design work.

Golden and Porter then each earned a scholarship from USITT to attend the institute's national conference that was recently held in Long Beach, California. They joined Olsen, who was already attending the national gathering of top global designers and technicians as part of his Magnus the Good grant. With more than 5,000 participants, it is the largest conference devoted to theatre design and technology in the United States.

"The USITT national conference was an excellent event to attend because it featured seminars and workshops sponsored by both professional architects and scenic designers," says Olsen, who has been working on a year-long research project investigating the architecture of performance venues.

Attending the institute's national conference, which features some of the best theater design and architecture consulting work from the past year, was the last phase of his research. Olsen is majoring in English also created a CIS major in architecture and design, and he will use his research to inform his capstone project for his CIS major this fall. He will also spend the summer interning at Shelter Architecture, a Minneapolis firm run by Kurt Gough '88.

Attending the USITT conference also gave Golden the opportunity to further his theater plans for next year. He created a CIS major in theatrical design and production at St. Olaf, and plans to pursue a graduate degree in lighting design. Almost all of the graduate schools he's applying to had a representative at the USITT conference, so attending enabled him to interview with those institutions and talk to members of their design faculties.

And, of course, attending the conference also gave him the opportunity to connect with theater professionals from around the world. "Theater can't happen in a vacuum, and conferences like these are what help to keep theatre moving forward as an art form, as well as a craft," Golden says.

Porter also used the conference to network with graduate students and theater professionals. As a theater major who has worked in the Dallas theater community and studied theater in both London and Paris, Porter plans to pursue an international career in theater after St. Olaf. "I would especially like to find a way to nurture and facilitate collaborative performances between artists around the globe," she says.

An undergraduate honor at Mid-America Theatre Conference
Evans was one of just three undergraduate students from across the country invited to present his work at the Mid-America Theatre Conference, a gathering primarily for established scholars and graduate students.

He presented a scholarly paper titled "Universality in Pullman Car Hiawatha: Transportive and Communicative Technologies of the Second Industrial Revolution and their Influence on Thornton Wilder and Early 20th Century Theatre." The paper was developed from the research he did on Thornton Wilder in Assistant Professor of Theater Jeanne Willcoxon's Theatre History Since 1700 course.

Evans notes that the paper focuses on Wilder's exaltation of human connection. "He places the utmost importance on the person and her connection to the entire global and historical population," he says.  "He's all about inclusiveness, which is something that has guided me both in and out of the theater."

Evans also staged the play as part of St. Olaf Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman's Intermediate Directing class performances last year. "So I've kind of tackled this play from both a practical and theoretical level," Evans says.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or