“Failing” in the Classroom

by Kevin M. Mitchell
Threepenny Opera at Webster University

Three professors weigh in on the art of allowing students to learn from themselves

When is “failing” actually failing? When does a theatre teacher choose not to “rescue” a student from a bad choice and let them learn from it? Three college professors and working professionals—two actors, one tech—sit down with Stage Directions to discuss the boundaries of allowing upper level students forge their own path.

Changing the Iconic

by Chris Wood
The pixel-mapped dress in performance.

One lighting designer leaned in pixel-mapping and new technology to make a brand new Christmas Angel

The musical Rent, as with all industry changing productions, has earned iconic characters and popular moments for which audiences have developed firm expectations. At the University of Northern Iowa, director Jay Edelnant, costume designer Amy S. RohrBerg, and I (lighting designer) wanted to break those expectations. The character Angel Dumott Schunard is traditionally introduced in a Santa Claus costume for the musical number “Today 4 You.” Our costume designer wanted to break with tradition and have Angel enter dressed as a Christmas Tree. As a lighting designer, one instinct is to offer Christmas tree lights as an option, but I wanted something new. So the decision was made to pixel map on the dress. When pixel mapping, you have individual control over each LED pixel in the dress as opposed to LED strips where the set of LEDs are controlled as a whole. The goal was to make the LEDs in Angel’s dress look like regular Christmas tree lights upon entering. As "Today 4 You" started, we could chase across her dress, show animations, and strobe, enhancing the exotic and creative personality of Angel.

Control the Process

by Thomas H. Freeman
Royal Marty

eZ-Hoist’s dedication to inventory and innovation make sure automation can happen at any theatre

eZ-Hoist is the result of customer demand. “Clients started to ask if ZFX, eZ-Hoist’s parent company, could do scenic automation for them in addition to performer flying,” says Royal Marty, director of the eZ-Hoist division. Robert Dean, founder of ZFX, listened to what those clients were asking and knew that ZFX could provide solutions, continues Marty. “We have a corral of stock products, and we have a very solid team and the ability to do custom products. And we have the ability to do large, multi-axis and long term rentals as well.” With the tech, the equipment and the know-how, eZ-Hoist was born, dedicated to taking their same passion for creativity, safety, innovation—and kilts—into stage automation. 

Early Days

by Michael S. Eddy
Advice for the young professional in the field of lighting

A look at being an emerging professional

Entering any job market can be a formidable task, certainly in the entertainment industry it can be daunting. Every year new classes graduate and new colleagues search out opportunities in the industry’s diverse landscape of roles. At Stage Directions we thought it would be informative to speak with some young professionals who are early in their career paths about the transition from school to job and any words of advice they have for those who follow. We also spoke to some teachers and employers about a few things they think emerging professionals should consider. Ultimately, we hope to turn this into an an on-going conversation. If you are an emerging professional or mentor who would like to participate, please feel free to e-mail the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Expanding to Improve

by Jacob Coakley
Tony Hagopian (left, in the blue shirt) and Rachel Friedman, URTA’s education manager, speak to apprentices at the Williamstown Theatre about how URTA can help them take the next step in their career.

URTA pushes itself further to make sure students—and theatres—are filling their greatest potential 

Theatre is full of acronyms: SL, SR, SM, DMX, MFA and URTA. Those last two are quite a pair. Ever since it was formed in 1969, the University Resident Theatre Association has followed its mission of “supporting excellence in professional training of theatre artists,” through a variety of programs. And while its oldest event—the annual recruiting fair for grad programs—is its most popular, the truth is they offer a variety of programs that ensure universities offer the highest education opportunities possible, benefiting students, schools and the field of theatre itself. They’re not done, either, launching new programs to further their mission. If you don’t know URTA, here’s an introduction into one of the most helpful acronyms out there. 

Making Art Accessible

by Lisa Mulcahy
in Feature
A moment from Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway.

Deaf West Theatre’s creative achievements have inspired both deaf and hearing audiences, thanks to its visionary leaders Ed Waterstreet and David Kurs.

Deaf West Theatre has pioneered the concept of theatre for deaf audiences, incorporating deaf theatre artists, for nearly three decades—and it’s only just begun to hit its stride. Ed Waterstreet, an accomplished stage actor known through the Los Angeles theatre community, served as founder and artistic director of Deaf West. From its home base in North Hollywood, Deaf West became the first company to incorporate American Sign Language for Southern California audiences, with a view toward serving the 1.2 million hearing impaired individuals in LA county. The company’s message has now expanded far beyond the west, as it brought critically and commercially successful productions of Big River and Spring Awakening to Broadway. In 2012, respected theatre artist David Kurs became the company’s new artistic director; together, Kurs and Waterstreet maintain their key commitment to offer deaf actors, directors and playwrights the opportunity to do the work they want to do, unfettered. They do it through creative resolve, artistic generosity and a highly honed technical process. 

Making Christmas Magic

by Randi Minetor
in Feature
The Ghost of Christmas Present flying in Silver Dollar City’s production of A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol special effects are within most theatres’ reach

A chain rattles, a disembodied voice moans, and carolers break into song—it’s about to be a snowy Christmas Eve in 1834 on stages across the country once again. Theatres from coast to coast are taking sets out of storage and pressing the creases out of costumes as they prepare to mount their annual production of A Christmas Carol

Mixing Without Leading

by Bryan Reesman
Charlotte Maltby and Leslie Becker with the cast of Icon.

Kate Munchrath tackles the fast and furious life of an audio mixer working NYMF

Working on a fast paced festival production with a very short run can be daunting, but try juggling three shows playing the same festival about the same time. Sound engineer Kate Munchrath faced such a scenario during July’s New York Musical Festival (NYMF) when she simultaneously mixed Icon, Lisa and Leonardo and The Last Word. Fortunately, all of them were presented in the same venue, The Duke on 42d St., a 199-seat black box space, but even then—with 10-14 cast members, at least five band members and only one rehearsal—there were plenty of sonic variables to contend with.