Tag Archive for: theatre

Master of Theatre Studies scenic design class

Master of Theatre Studies program wraps up for far-flung participants

SOU recognized 11 students in the Oregon Center for the Arts’ Master of Theatre Studies graduate program last weekend for completion of their third and final year of coursework.

This year’s MoTs contingent was made up of almost 40 theatre teachers from U.S., Canadian and Korean middle schools, high schools and community colleges. The program, limited to a maximum of 20 new participants each year, is made up of first-, second- and third-year cohorts whose members stay in SOU residence halls and eat at The Hawk dining commons as they participate in the intensive skill-building program on all aspects of theatre production and design.

The 11 third-year students who completed the program this year were Stefanie McConnell of Lewis Center, Ohio; Steven Munoz of Montclair, New Jersey; Carlene O’Connor of Red Hook, New York; Sara Rideout of Portland; Emily Ruiz of Victorville, California; Scott Sackett: Orem, Utah; Kendra Schroeder of Surprise, Arizona; Meli Hickenbottom of Incheon, Yeonsu-gu, South Korea; Denis Houyoux of Woodberry Forest, Virginia; Alex Konen of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; and Leis Depeche of Rotterdam, New York.

Faculty and staff in SOU’s Theatre Program including Jonathan Spencer, who Zoomed in from Colorado, made congratulatory presentations to the graduates. SOU President Rick Bailey, Provost Sue Walsh and OCA Director David Humphrey also congratulated the graduates. A BBQ dinner followed the ceremony, whidh concluded with the graduates boxing up their projects and preparing to return to their home states armed with intensive skills, knowledge, and goals to improve their high school theatre programs.

Coursework for the MoTs degree is designed specifically for high school theatre teachers, with three summer sessions of 12 credits each and three elective classes of nine credits each which can be taken during pre-summer or post-summer sessions, or online during winter term. The program’s third year wraps up with a thesis project that consists of evidence of students’ work accompanied by a self-evaluation paper that describes their graduate school experience.

The concentrated curriculum includes lecture, discussion and practical hands-on work, with required classes in script analysis, costume, lighting, sound design and production. Stagecraft, scene painting, stage properties, management, drawing, watercolor, stage make up and creative conceptualization are also part of the hands-on experience.

More information about the program is available online.

Sean O'Skea

SOU’s Sean O’Skea: from historic preservation to theatrical scene design

After moving back-and-forth – between the East and West coasts, and between theater stage design and historic preservation – Sean O’Skea has settled into his role at SOU as a professor of scenic design, which he’s held for the past 13 years.

O’Skea became interested in scene design after taking drama classes in high school and realizing he was more interested in creating evocative environments than in performing. To that end, he worked toward a bachelor’s degree in theatre at the University of Portland. But he started to have a change of heart while working on his graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, deciding to work instead toward a master’s degree in historic preservation.

“My degree in historic preservation was a bit of a rebellion against working in theatre,” O’Skea said. “I had worked my first year in grad school at University of Wisconsin-Madison and was really having second thoughts. I’ve always been interested in history and architecture, and so jumped into the program at Ball State.”

He worked in Indiana for about a year as a historic preservationist, but found after moving back to the West Coast that historic preservation work is rarer than it was on the East Coast.

“While I was trying to find more work in historic preservation, I kept getting offered design jobs and adjunct teaching in theatre, and after a while I just sort of found myself back in theater full-time again – so I went to University Portland to finish my MFA,” O’Skea said.

“I was accepted for a tenure-track job at Alfred University in New York,” he said. “So we moved back across the country. I was at Alfred for three years when my wife was offered a fantastic job in PR for Microsoft. Our life has been alternating between my school and jobs taking us east, where we were never really happy, and my wife’s jobs bringing us back to Oregon.”

In Oregon, O’Skea spent a couple years raising his daughter as a stay-at-home dad, before applying for teaching jobs at nearby universities – including SOU, where he was eventually hired.

“My wife has always dreamed of living in Ashland, and Southern Oregon felt very familiar to my Sonoma County (California) childhood home,” O’Skea said. “(SOU is) big enough to have a real college experience but not so big that you get lost. Ashland has the best of both worlds – great culture, progressive community, much that you’d find in a big city, but we are minutes away from some of the most beautiful landscapes in the nation.

“I was impressed with the department and hit it off with the faculty, I met some students that were really excited and committed to their studies and we decided to just go for it.”

O’Skea teaches courses in the SOU Theatre Program including elements of design, which introduces the digital and hands-on processes of design; scenic design, which explores the principles of scene design in enhancing theatrical performances; computer aided design, which focuses on digital modeling and rendering techniques in the creation of physical artistic spaces; and drafting, which examines the techniques of drawing stage scenery and properties.

O’Skea uses a direct teaching style, assigning projects in his classes that get his students to develop the technical skills required in set creation. He advises students to be determined if they want to find academic success.

“Self-motivation is essential; your professors can only be your guides, you have to take the lead on your learning,” he said.

O’Skea enjoys gardening and traveling, when not working. While much of his travel to the East Coast is for work, he also vacations with his family during winter breaks – recently going to England and Italy. His travels help inspire his work as a scene designer.

“Everything influences my designs and as most of our travel is to historically juicy places I spend a lot of time filling sketchbooks, and taking reference photos,” he said. “It drives my wife and daughter crazy as we will be walking somewhere and suddenly I’m not there and they find me half a block back taking a photo of an interesting door knocker or a picturesque cracked wall, or something.”

O’Skea has published “Painting for Performance: A Beginner’s Guide to Great Painted Scenery (Routledge-2016),” an educational book that focuses on giving beginners the terms and techniques to paint stage scenery.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Southern Oregon University Department of Performing Arts presents “Menagerie: The New Vaudeville”

(Ashland, Ore.) – The Theatre Arts program of the Department of Performing Arts at Southern Oregon University presents “Menagerie: The New Vaudeville” featuring James Donlon, Alina Cenal, Terry Longshore and Jeff Richmond on Thursday-Friday, Oct. 3-4 at 8:00 p.m. in the SOU Center Stage Theatre. Read more

SOU Department of Performing Arts Presents Tony Kushner’s adaptation of “The Illusion”

(Ashland, Ore.) – The Theatre Arts program of the Department of Performing Arts at Southern Oregon University presents “The Illusion,” adapted loosely by award-winning playwright Tony Kushner from  the 1936 “L’Illusion Comique” play written by Pierre Corneille. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Thursday-Saturday, May 23-25 and May 30-June 1 and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2. Read more