B.F.A. in Theatre Design & Technology

Otterbein’s B.F.A. in theatre design and technology degree provides an immersive hands-on experience in which students achieve practical production experience across ALL areas of technical theatre, making our graduates versatile and effective collaborators. This degree program is a four-year sequence of courses in design, theatre technology and visual arts, paired with mainstage production assignments which support the department’s annual season. Most students elect to focus their upper-level study in one or two concentration areas (see featured concentrations above).

Students who wish to explore theatre design, technology and other areas, such as marketing, acting/directing or a double major, should consider the BA Theatre degree program.

From the very first semester of Freshman year, BFA Design & Technology students work in valuable positions on mainstage productions. Under the guidance of expert faculty, staff, and guest artists, students progress from entry-level crew positions to the highest level positions of each technical discipline (including mainstage design roles).

Annual evaluations of and workshops on portfolios & resumes help students understand how to effectively document their work and market themselves to potential employers.

A highlight of the BFA Design & Technology program is the potential for a ten-week internship at a New York or professional Regional theatre, usually taken in the summer before, or during the senior year.

Placement in an internship is contingent upon the changing availability of internships as determined by the American professional theatre, screen, and entertainment industries, the landscape of social change taking place in the theater community, as exemplified by A New Deal for Broadway, and the readiness of the student to be a full, productive, and beneficial member of their host organization’ mission. 

While we see inestimable value in internship experiences, we fully support the journey toward a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable American Theatre. 

Scenic & Properties Construction & Design

Known as one of the best producers of large scale musicals in central Ohio, Otterbein provides many opportunities for those interested in scenery and properties to learn professional practices and gain valuable experience in building and crewing large scale productions.

In the Classroom

From day one, students begin learning the fundamental techniques of scenery construction and rigging in a class taught by our resident faculty Technical Director. Hands-on projects in our large, well-equipped scene shop prepare students to take on the construction of scenery for our season productions. Students are given clear instruction on safety and the use of a large selection of power tools and hand tools as well as specialized construction techniques, such as metalworking and props construction. Individual classes also cover topics such as scenic painting, props, welding, AutoCAD drafting, drawing and rendering, scenic design, model-making, and various other special topics.

In Production Work

Students are given a wide range of opportunities to develop their skills in producing realized professional productions with significant budget support. Students are exposed to a wide variety of design styles and staging solutions through a series of produced works that fill the stage of a 1200 seat proscenium theatre space and a smaller thrust space on the campus. In addition, students may have the opportunity to design scenery for a main stage production with the full support of a production team in realizing their design alongside the mentor ship of a faculty member.

Faculty and Staff

Technical Director, Patrick Stone holds Master of Fine Arts degree (the highest degree in the field) in Technical Direction. We are excited to embark on a search for a Fulltime Scenic Design Faculty member this year following the retirement of our Scenic Designer of 30+ years. Students are fully entrusted as partners in the process of realizing a scenic design and executing the running of shows in a professional manner.

Lighting Design & Technology

Otterbein University Theatre emphasizes learning through doing. Our students are extensively involved in the lighting design and technical production of our five main stage productions, as well as our student productions including: cabarets, classroom projects, drag shows, and the student created and produced “Festival”.

In the Classroom

Students begin as freshmen with “Sound and Lighting for the Stage,” a technology-centered course that teaches the proper and safe utility of stage lighting fixtures, control, and power. The class goes beyond the traditional introductory material to train students in the technical and management skills necessary to act as a Master Electrician.

In their sophomore year lighting students enter the design world through our “Lighting Design” course. Students are encouraged to think as artists and to see light in a new way, applying their newly-developed technology skills to support the aesthetics of theatre productions. Students are trained in both the art and craft of design, utilizing industry-standard software such as Vectorworks and LightWright to efficiently create, implement, and manage designs within a professional environment.

Advanced students take individualized classes to explore the skill sets necessary to gain employment and make a living in theatrical lighting including “Advanced Design,” working as an assistant designer, and classes delving into topics such as unions, contracts, taxes, networking, and resume/portfolio development.

The capstone to the Otterbein lighting design education is a full-semester internship. Internships are required for BFA students and are an option for BA students. Our interns are placed in professional theatres across the country, learning and gaining real-world experience from seasoned professionals. The internship is a gateway from the educational world to the professional world.

Our lighting coursework emphasizes current professional standards and practices. Classroom examples are drawn from both current departmental and professional productions, and faculty share the minutia of professional life through a blog tracking the real-time development of professional productions in major theatres.

In Production Work

Lighting students begin in production assignments as electricians: hanging, focusing, programming, and running the lighting for our productions. Promising students are quickly elevated to leadership roles such as Assistant Master Electrician and Master Electrician where they lead the planning, management, and execution of the light plots. They also manage budgets, schedules, and student crews to accomplish their work in a timely, economically sound, and safe manner.

Design-oriented students move from this technical foundation into Assistant Lighting Design positions. Advanced students may be assigned to design lighting for department productions. These student designers work under the close mentorship of design faculty to create the lighting for a production from initial production meetings through opening night. Student designers have described their hands-on design work at Otterbein as critical moments in their design education. These opportunities create polished portfolio pieces that help students stand out as they interview for future study and employment.

In all production work, Otterbein emphasizes professionalism, mutual respect, self-motivation, self-discipline, and safety.

Faculty & Staff

Faculty Lighting Designer T.J. Gerckens is an award-winning professional lighting designer and educator. He has designed on and off Broadway, in major regional theatres across America, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and internationally in London, Australia, and at the LaScala Opera House in Milan, Italy. He holds a BFA from Otterbein University, an MFA from Boston University (the terminal degree in theatrical lighting), and is a proud member of USA Local 829, the union representing theatrical designers and scenic artists. Teaching is one of his first loves, and he enjoys bringing his professional experience to his students and nurturing their growth as technicians, artists, and citizens.

Doc Davis, Lighting and Sound Supervisor, holds an MFA in Theatre Technology and brings several years of professional theatre experience to the staff. Doc is dedicated to the success and growth of his students through both classroom teaching and practical experience.

Sound Design & Technology

Students interested in learning the art and science related to Sound & Audio production for Theatre are given a wealth of opportunities for classroom and hands-on work.

In The Classroom

Students begin to develop their skills in the introductory “Lighting and Sound Technology” course. In addition to learning the fundamental theory and practice of sound technology, students partake in hands-on learning with professional-level live audio equipment including digital playback software, digital sound processors, wireless microphones, and digital mixing consoles.

For students seeking an understanding of the artistic creation and application of sound and audio, the “Sound Design” course will introduce digital recording and editing workflows in addition to conceptualization and integration of audio design. This course is project-based; allowing students to learn and experiment with the ways that perceived sound can affect our moods, emotions, and reactions.

In Production Work

Students interested in Sound Design work closely with in-house and visiting designers to create soundscapes best suited for each production. Students will begin as a Sound Assistant and learn the common practices of system setup, orchestral and wireless microphone techniques, and emergency troubleshooting.

Students may then serve as an A2, participating in tuning of the audio system, programming of sound playback systems, and working closely with the sound designer in crafting the balance of microphones that the audience hears.

Students may also serve as A1 or Lead Audio Engineer. The A1 is responsible for ensuring that all aspects of a show, including dialog, music, and effects, are perfectly balanced and intelligible to the audience.

Advanced students may serve as Sound Designer for productions; working collaboratively with the design team to create an aural environment that best suits the director’s vision of the show.

In addition to production assignments, many students serve as crew for university-sponsored events that happen within Cowan Hall, including convocations, music concerts, and guest lecturers. These events give the students the opportunity to work with non-theatre staff in a real-world manner, while learning proper professional standards and practices.

Faculty and Staff

Doc Davis, Lighting and Sound Supervisor, holds an MFA in Sound Design from the University of Illinois (the highest degree available in his field.) He has worked as a professional sound designer, recording engineer, mastering engineer, and projections designer, and brings a wealth of real-world experience to share with students. Doc is dedicated to the success and growth of his students through both classroom teaching and practical experience.

Costume Construction & Design

Hands-on learning is tantamount to every student’s theatre education at Otterbein. In the costume area, students work in Wardrobe, Costume Technology, and Design, giving each student a solid foundation and preparing them for work in many facets of professional theatre.

In the Classroom

All students begin their freshman year with a “Costumes for the Theatre” course which reviews a variety of methods and skills for garment construction, including both hand and machine stitching, fabric layout/cutting, and fabric selection. “Advanced Costume Technology” can be taken spring of Freshman year and introduces pattern draping, drafting, and flat pattern manipulation. Other courses covering millinery (hat making), fabric dying/manipulation, etc. are taught on a rotating basis or as independent studies.

In the sophomore year, students take “Costume History” which introduces students to fashions from the Ancient Egyptians to the 20th Century. The course includes research methods, drawing practice, and prepares students for “Costume Design” class as well as future work draping period garments.

“Costume Design” begins a student’s education in both the artistic and managerial sides of being a professional Costume Designer. Instruction through this course includes paperwork/organization, research, sourcing materials, fiber sciences, budgeting as well as elements of visual design as used in clothing. Projects explore contemporary clothing, abstract/creative work, and period replication.

In Production Work

Freshmen serve on wardrobe crews and as stitchers in the Costume Shop; sophomores begin leading crews as Wardrobe Masters and First Hands. In the junior and senior years, students are given roles as Drapers and Assistant Designers. Students who show the promise and work ethic can apply to be a Costume Designer within our mainstage season.

In addition to structured production assignments, many opportunities are available for student designers and technicians through Classroom Project productions, and student produced productions such as Cabarets, Drag Shows, and the student produced Theatre Festival (part of the mainstage season).

Faculty and Staff

Costume Designer, Rebecca White, and Costume Shop Manager, Anna Grywalski both hold Master of Fine Arts degrees (the highest degree in the field) in Costume Design and Costume Technology. Both Rebecca and Anna are extremely dedicated to ensuring authentic learning experiences both in and out of the classroom. Students are guaranteed individualized attention and personal mentoring.

Stage Management

Student stage managers are vital to the success of productions at Otterbein University. Each production is embraced as a hands-on learning experience through which student stage managers will become prepared for careers in stage, production or event management in the professional theatrical world.

In the Classroom

Stage management students are encouraged to take the “Stage Management” course in their freshman year. This class is designed to give foundational information on each stage management production assignment – Production Assistant, Assistant Stage Manager, and Stage Manager. “Stage Management (SM) Seminar” is a repeatable class held once a week for those interested and/or those assigned to stage management production assignments. “SM Seminar” is a space for stage managers to learn from one another’s experiences on production assignments.

Beyond these classes, the BFA Design & Technology curriculum offers stage management students a variety of educational opportunities in all technical theatre areas. By taking classes in scenery, props, scenic painting, costumes, lighting, and sound, a stage management student walks away with foundational knowledge regarding each different discipline of theatre. The BFA Design & Technology sets our stage management students up for professional success.

In Production Work

Students will typically begin their stage management careers at Otterbein as a Production Assistant.  This position allows stage management students to be immersed in the rehearsal process, learn professional stage management practices, and absorb information from their fellow students. Stage management students then progress to the role of an Assistant Stage Manager on a mainstage production. As an Assistant Stage Manager you are charged with running the backstage during a show, creating paperwork necessary for running the show, serving as the liaison to different production areas, teaching and instructing backstage crews, and so much more.

Once a stage management student has demonstrated proficiency in the role of an Assistant Stage Manager, he or she will be eligible to become the Stage Manager of a mainstage production. As the lead facilitator and communicator for the stage management team, the Stage Manager will keep the rehearsal process moving forward smoothly, communicate amongst the production team members, execute the show’s artistic vision by calling each performance, and so much more.

In addition to structured production assignments, many opportunities are available for student stage managers in Classroom Project productions, and student produced Cabarets, Drag Shows, and the student produced Festival included within the mainstage season.

Faculty and Staff

Production Manager and Stage Management Mentor, Brian Sekinger, holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree (the highest degree in the field) in Stage Management and is also a member of Actor’s Equity, the union representing actors and stage managers. Brian is a dedicated advisor who is invested in providing individualized attention and personal mentoring for each of her students. Student stage managers are entrusted partners in the realization and execution of Otterbein’s main stage productions.

Student Learning Outcomes University Learning Goals (KMERI*)
1. Students will demonstrate and recall basic knowledge of all the areas of technical theatre: Sound, Lighting, Scenery/Props, Costumes. Knowledgeable
2. Students will create and organize a resume and portfolio suitable for entry-level positions or graduate school application. Multi-literate
3. Students will acquire and complete a professional internship at a major regional or professional theatre company. Engaged
4. Students develop competency in chosen area of Design/Technology. Engaged
5. Students will demonstrate ability to communicate clearly, follow through on their commitments and meet all assigned deadlines. Responsible
6. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the process of theatrical design. Inquisitive

*NOTE: KMERI refers to Otterbein's learning goals. It stands for KnowledgeableMulti-literateEngagedResponsible, and Inquisitive. To learn more about KMERI, visit our University Learning Goals page.