In the Moment: ‘Technical Theater Boot Camp’ at Hylton Performing Arts Center.

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This summer Hylton Performing Art Center is offering a unique opportunity for “hands-on” learning about what happens backstage during a live theater performance. The Hylton is offering a “learn-by-doing,” short-course in the basics of technical theater production. The course will be taught by teachers who are skilled working professionals in the field of technical design elements. The course is “Technical Theater Boot Camp.”

Hylton Merchant Hall. Photo by Robert Davies.
Hylton Merchant Hall. Photo by Robert Davies.

In a recent interview, Rick Davis, Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts, George Mason University and Executive Director, Hylton Performing Arts Center indicated that the intensive, one-week course will help “provide answers and experiences to those who have wondered what happens behind the scenes of a performing arts venue?”

The “Boot Camp” will provide information and experiences such as:

  • Essential skills of technical production
  • Basics of stage lighting, carpentry, rigging, and fly system operation
  • Sound equipment operation for reinforcement and effects
  • Good practices for safe and efficient stage crew operations

The “Boot Camp” classes include five 4-hour sessions ending by 1 p.m. each day. Participants are expected to wear long pants with closed toe shoes. Work gloves are recommended.

The “Technical Theater Boot Camp” faculty will be taught by the Production Staff at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. Led by the Production Manager, Chris Burrell, the staff is responsible for running and maintaining the theater, and supporting the many events that happen year-round in both Merchant Hall and the Gregory Family Theater. Each staff member specializes in an aspect of technical theater: Kevin Smith, Technical Direction, set construction and rigging; Sean Ordway, theatrical lighting and rigging; and Mark Ormesher, audio and visual.

Successful completion of the Technical Theater ‘Boot Camp’ earns a Certificate of Technical Theater Training and qualifies the holder for consideration for future select crew assignments at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

Photo courtesy of George Mason.
Rick Davis. Photo courtesy of George Mason University.

Recently, I interviewed Rick Davis Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts, George Mason University and Executive Director of Hylton Performing Arts Center.

David: Why did Hylton Performing Arts Center decide to develop a “Technical Theater ‘Boot Camp”?

Rick: We saw a great intersection between need and capability – we needed trained theater technicians on our “call list” for crewing shows, and the market is in short supply – and our professional staff was ready, willing, and eager to teach the skills necessary to begin doing that work. We also heard loud and clear from community groups and schools that their own technical production programs could benefit from this kind of training. Finally, our strategic plan specifically includes education as one of our missions, and we think this is an excellent way of acting on that.

Who can attend “Boot Camp”? 

Anyone over the age of 16 (younger with special permission) can attend, and we’ve had a wide range of folks from high school students to retirees. Anyone who has a sincere interest in technical theater and is willing to work hard is welcome.

What can participants at “Boot Camp” expect?

“Boot Campers” learn from working professionals who do these jobs on a very high level every day at one of the region’s most advanced theater venues, with state of the art equipment. The program includes the basics of stage lighting, carpentry, rigging, and fly system operation, sound equipment operation for reinforcement and effects, and good practices for safe and efficient stage crew operations.

What is the cost?

The cost is $290 for an intensive week of learning and doing, including supporting an actual Hylton Center performance in real time.

If you could invite participants to “Boot Camp” what would you say to them?

I like to think of a theater, dance, or music production like an iceberg – the performance the audience sees is the proverbial “tip” of the iceberg, but behind that is a huge operation that ensures the successful outcome on stage. This boot camp helps prepare folks to make that all-important part of the theatrical process work well. And, we have a good track record of offering real production work to our best “Boot Camp” alumni!

Where do you see the Hylton Performing Arts Center programming and attendance in the next 2-4 years?

Our audience is growing year over year, with this past season setting several new records, and renewals running far ahead of past trends, so we know we are reaching a greater level of market penetration and audience engagement. I look forward to an increasingly diverse range of programming too, reflecting the vibrant region that we serve. Special events like “Hylton Center Extra!” (which recently featured a sold-out performance by Art Garfunkel) add spice to the lineup as well.

imagesWe plan to introduce more exciting performances from George Mason University’s excellent students on our stages in coming years. Finally, it is extremely gratifying to support the growth of our excellent Resident Arts Partners and Affiliates, fine companies and ensembles from the local area that continue to scale new heights of artistic achievement and find new audiences for their work.

“Technical Theater ‘Boot Camp” is held from August 1-5, 2016 at Hylton Performing Arts Center – Merchant Hall n and The Gregory Family Theater – 10900 University Boulevard, in Manassas, VA. For questions, email the camp at slandess@gmu.edu or call 703-993-9344.

The application deadline is July 18, 2016. The ‘Boot Camp” is for ages 16 and up. (Ages 14-15 may apply, but must receive the course instructor approval. The price is $290.00.