May 2011 Issue   

Late Night Musings from the Chair


•  Education Panels at Charlotte
Learning Through Helping
USITT National Conference 2011
Iowa's Diverse Cultures Explored
Medieval Mystery Play Staging



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Gopher Stage Lighting
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Education Panels at Charlotte 2011

By Rob Jensen

         I wanted to attend the national conference because I would soon be a member of the work force and wanted to make professional connections. Additionally I noted several panels that would be on the topic of teaching technical theater on a collegiate level. As it is my hope to move into academia upon graduation it seemed prudent to see what my colleagues had to offer. There were several sessions that I had noted as being interested in attending. I was able to attend a number of them, the two that I found the most informative were the sessions titled Integrating Our Design History into the Classroom and And You Will Also Be Teaching Intro to Theatre... Both of these classes stood out to me because they covered topics that I was struggling with as I contemplated taking on the role of teacher.
 RobJensen           I was not disappointed. Not only where the two sessions on their own interesting and informative, but they complimented each other nicely. In Integrating Our Design History into the Classroom, the focus was not on how to teach a design history class, but rather it was on how to bring design history to other classes. It was pointed out that a majority of design programs do not have specific classes that cover design history, and that those that do are only graduate level courses. All the panelists agreed that the best way to do this and not deviate from an already full semester load was to offer the chance for students to study on their own by expanding the written and/or presentation parts of existing projects to include an aspect of researching design history. This was appealing as it could be applied not just to design courses in the major design disciplines, but could easily be included in a theater appreciation, into to theater, or theater history coarse. It was pointed out that by including design history as an option for projects these courses may offer more of a broader appeal to tech students by giving them a chance to see that history is not all about the acting and directing side of theater.
            The other interesting session, ‘And You Will Also Be Teaching Intro to Theatre...', covered how to teach survey level introduction or appreciation theater courses. This was a topic that I wanted to attend because of my own concerns about having to teach a course that covered areas outside my own discipline of technical theater.  It covered a board range of topics. These included helpful hints like what books are good and which ones to avoid as well as more complex topics like advice on to how to make students in large survey class feel like what they have to say is being heard. This panel also voiced a need for the experience to be all inclusive, cautioning against assuming anything about the students and their motives for taking the class. It was suggested that the best approach was to see live theater and to bring in outside practitioners that cover areas with which you are not familiar EdCommIt was at this session that I heard some of the best descriptions of what teaching was when one of one panel members pointed out, “you will never teach it all to them, the idea is to start a spark and let them build the forest fire.”
            I would not have had the opportunity to hear this kind of advice without the help of the Northern Boundary Section and am most grateful for to all who made it possible. All in all I had a good time and felt that going was well worth the experience and chance to expand my knowledge.

(ed. note: Rob received an NBS Scholarship supported by SECOA)
The Education Commission of the USITTNational Organization is at

USITT National Conference 2012
March 28-31Charlotte

Long Beach, CA


Be prepared for fun and excitement at the 2012 Annual Conference & Stage Expo.

Catch the Wave!