SPOTLIGHT ON COLLEGE BACKSTAGE WIZARDS

Technical Theatre students at Stratford-upon-Avon College combined their creative skills to dazzle audiences with breath-taking set design at recent musical theatre and acting performances.

The team has worked on an eclectic mix of College productions: with infinite ingenuity and determination more than compensating for a limited budget, the students produced two stunning sets for January’s performances of Broadway hit ‘Dames at Sea’ – a Broadway Theatre and a USS battleship – as well as a complex set for February’s ‘The Tempest’ – set designs that would look at home on a West End stage.

And in October the students headlined their own unique, inspired performance ‘Light to Sound’, literally lighting up the stage with a spectacular light show accompanied by an audio mix of music and sound effects.

The College’s Technical Theatre course prepares students for a career in the theatre working behind the scenes, giving them responsibility for the stage management, set, props, lighting and sound design of all College performances across the course disciplines of Acting, Musical Theatre and Dance. They have even provided technical support for professional theatre companies who visit Stratford to perform in the College’s theatres.

Technical Theatre students (left to right) Amy Pinfold, Oliver Boot and Katie Bonehill

The Students gain experience in the various backstage roles before being given the opportunity to specialise in a discipline of their choice.

Oliver Boot, 17 from Solihull, a second-year Technical Theatre student, was drawn to the creative aspect of lighting design. He chose to specialise in this field and hopes to become a stage lighting engineer after he graduates from College. “It’s the lighting engineer’s job to highlight where the action is taking place on stage. An audience is very responsive to light and you can control exactly where people will look at any given moment. You’re almost composing the show as it takes place.”

Oliver worked on both ‘Light to Sound’, producing its truly spectacular lighting effects, and ‘The Tempest’. He commented: “You can be very creative with lighting. For ‘The Tempest’, I did a lot of experimentation into how to create the effect of natural light shining through trees. After many hours of practice, I was really pleased with the result.”

Louise Millward, Technical Theatre lecturer, commented: “I’ve been incredibly impressed by the level of creativity and artistry shown by the students – a level one could expect from professionals. All the hard work that goes on behind the scenes can make or break a performance, and the students’ superb input played a huge part in making our productions a spectacular success.”

Oliver is in no doubt that the level of training he received on the College’s Technical Theatre course has prepared him perfectly for the industry. “The lecturers are obviously in charge but they encourage us to behave as independent professionals every step of the way. It’s like working with colleagues more than anything so it’s much more representative of working in a real theatre.”