Tuesday, May 30, 2006

For the Arts Festival Crew

So they won't think I was just making it all up:

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Back to the Scanniverse

Classes being over has allowed me to get back to the "Great Boevers Scanning Project." This time I was doing 1975-1977. Let me tell you, it was very definitely the 70's. Earth tones and bell bottoms were all the rage.

This period is home to one of the seminal David photographs of my youth, captured by the wedding photographer at my Aunt Sari's first wedding. Likely this was not the type of behavior the tuxedo rental shop had in mind when they fitted me to be the ring bearer.









I think the photo from this album I found the most interesting was this one of my Dad, his parents and his brothers.

We don't have a lot of photos of this group. It was nice to stumble on one in our album.









The other day I happened to find this photo of all places on eBay. I was shopping for an exorbitantly priced printer, and along the way typed my last name into the search field to see what turned up.

What did turn up, among a couple of other less interesting things was this Celebrity Picture of my sister. The current bid is $9.99.

That got me thinking.





Now that I've been doing all this scanning, I have a boatload of pictures of my celebrity sister. I wonder what I could get for them. I mean, if an opening night picture could be worth $10, certainly candids of the star in her own element ought to be worth something, right?

I suppose if I do start a celebrity photo business exploiting my sister, I really ought to cut her in. Wouldn't be fair otherwise.

I wonder what I could get for pictures from her wedding? The crass possibilities just seem limitless. Perhaps this is an idea best set aside.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Safety Net?

Today I had a very "inside baseball" conversation with an author writing a book about jobs in theatre. I think we really got off track when we were talking about why people go to college. Principally, when you ask people what the advantage of college for theatre versus working is they respond that it is an opportunity to fail without consequences. It turns out that I think maybe this isn't a good response.

We always talk up the angle of learning through failure, and how as professionals it is important to become comfortable with the concept of failure. It is something I have always chafed at. Technical Directors don't get to fail like other people that are in theatre school. If a manager fails, then you have a bad process, or a lousy call. If a designer, director, or actor fails you get a lousy show, or perhaps a poor production. All of these things are in an educational sense positive failures, opportunities to learn from the mistakes.

If an engineer fails, people can die.

So I chafe at the recruiting boilerplate that says that this is a safe environment for failure. Usually I am the only rep for technology in the room, and so I tag on my point as an afterthought - that in most cases failure isn't a bad thing, but for a TD occasionally failure at school is every bit as important and imposing as failure in the world.

In an interesting change of perspective though, my problem with the stipulation this time was not about engineering. This time it was about repercussions. The root of the idea is that if one were to go out into the industry and fail that jobs would disappear and that your career would be in real jeopardy. I have to say I am not sure that is true. Again, in an instance where someone has a failure of engineering and there are injuries or property damage then yes, of course this is going to jam you up professionally. But, in the case of doing a bad job, I am not sure this is the epic problem that we make it out to be, or at least not something of such magnitude that it ought to figure strongly in a decision of whether or not to go to college.

The fact is that bosses expect people to make mistakes. How tolerant they are and what the repercussions are vary from employer to employer, but I really can't think of something incremental that would cause someone to have to leave the industry. Maybe your rate would slip, maybe your position on someone's call list would drop, but people would still pay you, and work would continue to manifest.

In reality, employers make evaluations of a person's skill with their own self interest at heart. Unlike school, there is nothing that says you have to be the Technical Director. So whereas at school you might get an early opportunity to TD and then fail, in the world an employer is going to take longer to put you into that position in the first place. This does two things: first it means that you are less likely to be in a position when you are likely to fail, and second it places some of the blame for the judgment leading up to the failure on the employer. Both of which mitigate both the chances for a failure to begin with and the possible repercussions form an occurrence of a failure.

So on the one end of the spectrum we have the expected or shared failures which are probably going to be fairly low impact on someone's career progress. And really how bad is the other end of the spectrum? Lets say there is a bad failure, something that costs your boss their profit or loses someone a client. In the worst case the employee is going to lose their gig. We often talk about this in fairly epic terms, but really how bad is it to be fired? Are these people such delicate flowers that being fired from a gig is going to derail their career indefinitely? Even people that get fired work again. Many of them actually return to work for the people that had to fire them to begin with. We all know people or companies that when we see them listed as part of a project we shake our heads a little and think "just how is it that they are still in the business?" But the fact is that in many ways the business is extremely tolerant of failure.

So if that is the case, then just how important is the concept of school being a place where it is ok to fail? And if in fact it is ok to fail professionally, then what are we talking about at all?

And as long as we're asking questions, just how safe an environment for failure is school?

Certainly the mechanics and ramifications of failure in an educational environment are different than they are in an employment environment. But is different automatically safer, or desirable? As a professional who lives partially in the educational world, my observation is that in many cases failure in an academic setting is actually worse than in an employment setting. Now, we won't fire people and we don't blacklist people, but its not really about the tenure of your position in a school as it would be with a company or a production. In a school it is about the relationships and about the crushing weight of your future.

To begin with, educational failures are not without real work consequences. As professional mentors, instructors are placed unfortunately often in the position of hearing "if I don't get a B I will lose my scholarship" or "my parents just won't understand a C" or "what would I do if I don't continue as a student here?" The fallout for a poor performance rating in an educational situation is sometimes actually worse than it would be in an employment situation and is nearly always perceived as being the end of the world. So because of the emotional load, even when the failure isn't vocationally detrimental, it can be very, very hard on the student.

Secondly, the employer/employee relationship is actually a little better at dealing with failure than the mentor/student relationship. No matter how much I liked any of the companies or bosses I have worked with, I have never valued their opinion of me the way a drama student values the opinion of their teachers. In some cases, students are more worried about what their teachers are going to think of them than any other dimension of the incident. Just like the difference in assessment above, while an instructor's opinion may carry little real world weight, it does come with a heaping barge load of stress. This school stress just doesn't manifest in the same way in the workplace.

Speaking of stress, the instructors are only a tiny little piece. School has an immersive quality to it that acts as an amplifier for stress. The confines of a professional project are much more defined and much easier to navigate than the artistic/family/social/production web that is scholastic theatre. The educational environment produces other stresses, what your friends are thinking of you, how hard you are working compared to others, your one chance at bat to get things perfect; all of these things are stressors that are in addition to the normal confines of time, energy, and office politics. Having your production team also be your social network magnifies every single action. While this happens to a degree professionally, it doesn't manifest to nearly the degree it does at school, except perhaps in stock - and I think we all know that the stock posture isn't sustainable, and yet we all believe that the school posture ought to be.

The commitment to the artform produced by the immersion, and the drive for perfection fed by that immersion and by the relatively few opportunities to work within a defined time period (like I only get to design one show in my time at school) weigh very heavily on students. Sometimes to the point of defeating a collaborative experience. A situation where someone won't even listen to another's ideas for fear of wrecking their one shot to shine is a product of an endgame scenario fed by a student career. One that is non-existent within the scope of a professional career.

Really, if the safety net of the stress of thinking my mentors dislike me, having my friends hate me, and screwing up my one real opportunity to show what I can do is the gain from an educational environment, maybe it would be healthier to get paid and then get fired.

Its just a thought.

Also, I can't help but think how much of this is formative. I am a product of that stress factory. Is the way that I relate to my work forever (or at least substantively) colored by the nature of my formative experiences? Long after finishing with school I did get fired from a job. When I was talking to my boss at the time he cited "you're just not happy here" as part of the problem. Upon reflection I would have to agree that I should have quit that job more than six months before they eventually fired me. Is the educational environment of diminished overall opportunities and peer constructed self esteem partially to blame for sticking in such an awful situation? School is definitely a place where people are pressured to make things work rather than quit. Is it possible that professionally this is a bad thing?

Often within the theatre industry you hear people that have come up through the ranks rather than having been through the school experience disparaged for not caring if the show turns out good, or for caring more about their paycheck than the product. It would be very difficult to successfully complete a college theatre program with that type of attitude. Someone that elects to work their way up rather than benefit from the safety net of school gets a very different formative environment. Is it possible they are right? Or if not right, is it possible that their relationship to their work is healthier?

As with many things, the best posture probably lies somewhere in between the person that went to school and did stock and the person that started unloading trucks and worked their way up to department head. But one thing that does appear to be clear, the work is definitely harder on one group than the other. Not the job is harder, or the experience is more difficult, one group runs at a higher duty cycle, the emotionally laden experience is more taxing. How would we spin that? Character building? For all the industry articles on personnel management and TD burnout, and salary baselining, it would seem clear that those people that benefited from school took some hits in other ways.

So, what of the safety net? Is the idea that there is a more forgiving environment for failing within a school a good assumption? With respect to overall career development, maybe not. Yes, if you go out and learn on the job there will be bumps along the way. But in many ways those bumps seem less painful than some of the social and emotional dominos introduced by the warm embrace of a scholastic situation. Which way is right for which person? That would have to be evaluated case by case, but it does seem clear that one way is not inherently safer than the other.

There are many reasons to decide that college is the way to go. Colleges provide a very different developmental experience. College programs will likely provide a somewhat broader foundation skills wise. School will invariably include some theatre literature and history which will lead to being a more complete artisan. Hopefully college will include some classes outside of the theatre experience entirely to help add breadth and develop perspective. The social scene at college is very different than the workplace. There is a diversity of experience in an educational environment that won't be present in most regular workplaces: diversity of personnel, of artform, or work experiences. School provides opportunities for networking that are unparalleled, and in most cases will position graduates to move up very quickly once they do enter the field professionally. All of these things are distinct issues on which to base a decision to attend or not attend school, and in the end probably all outweigh the concept of a learning in a place where it is "ok to fail."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ellipses...

I have been a lousy blogger lately... You would think by installing the new video card that text would get clearer. You'd be wrong... I don't know about the experts, but from where I am standing the economy is pretty lousy... Cats really do like it under the couch... I'm not sure why I go to the doctor for prescriptions... I should really fix the scratch on my truck... All the people you just can't please all of the time... I am almost down to an empty inbox, school ended more than a week ago... The tux rental service from Men's Warehouse really is the shit... I am declaring an end to the word "liberal"... I'm not sure when it happened, but basketball is exciting again... What is an 11x17 printer worth in one's life??? There's nothing quite as satisfying as a clean desk... This time I picked the movie... Its hard not to buy more kittens... My PLAXO is 47% up to date and rising... Someday soon I really ought to organize my IRA... I wonder if Lord of the Rings would be worth the trip... When did memory become so cheap??? That was too bad about the pool cue... Now that school is over, the parking garage isn't so bad... I already have meetings scheduled for next May. That's just wrong... Looks like the middle teens for prekie enrollment. We could build a whole show with that... The NewsPage is on summer rotation, only scanning like 15 sources for the next couple of months... Is saving one hour of driving worth $600? What if it is between Boston and Cape Cod? On a Friday night? In the summer? The weekend of the 4th of July??? It's official, I'm 250#... Nice to see that robbing from shareholders is still at least technically illegal... I'm not sure searching a Congressperson's office, with a warrant, signed by a judge is a separation of powers violation - otherwise, man that would be the gig, you could p2p all the mp3s you wanted... I guess we have to pick a shoe winner. It'll be Emily or Kate, no sure which...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Glad I Found This

Nothing beats Stewart's reaction toward the end...



Sometimes this stuff just writes itself for them I think.

You know, when Clinton beat Bush years ago I remember people asking Rush Limbaugh if his job was going to get harder because it was no longer going to be a Republican administration. I guess what we witnessed was a transformation from cheerleading to mudslinging there. Something tells me that Stewart & Colbert would handle a change in government administrations more gracefully.

But for the time being, I bet they go home every night and thank God for George W. Bush.

How long is that you ask? I'm glad you did:


Parent Post

A little bit for the mom of the missus and a little bit for my dad...

It was my grandfather-in-law's 80th birthday this weekend (is that a relation people specify?). The family was doing a surprise party for him, so we saw them a lot. First we went to a sort of fake out party:

(The photo is not how nature intended. Sometimes photostitch makes me feel like Doctor Frankenstein.)

We all had dinner at the fish market, then said goodbye as if the occasion had been celebrated and duly dealt with.

The next day, the wife went to breakfast with everyone and said goodbye yet again - as if the out of town company were about to take off for home.

That evening, the guest of honor was taken to the country club for what he was told was a Republican Party fund raiser. When he got there he was surprised to find his family and friends in the midst of celebrating his birthday.

Why then is this post also for my Dad? Well, I snagged him some souvenirs from the country club:



Sunday, May 21, 2006

Commencement 2006

If I could change things about CMU, one of the things on the list would be the expected weather on the day of commencement. Somehow it never fails to be cold and rainy at the top of the day for the outdoor ceremony and then clear up just in time for the indoor ceremony. This was once again the experience this year.

I robed this year and gave out a diploma, first time for me. The robe was goofy and my hat wouldn't stay straight. I guess if I am going to stick in this job for the long haul I will want to invest in some of my own personal regalia. I had a moment during the ceremony where for a second I thought nobody liked me, but then Kevin had the same kind of moment and I know everyone loves him so I am chalking it up to somewhat less boisterous graduates in our discipline than in others.

My boss did a great job with pronunciations this year, and for the first time in memory we were on writing, verbally, and on the projections the "Production Technology & Management" option, a fact not lost on many year to year observers. Who says good things don't come to those who wait?

And so another year comes to a close. Truthfully this year it is not a moment too soon for me as I have been running on fumes for a while now. Overall I think it was a good year with a lot of good work done all around. As to the nature of the day, my dad said I got it pretty much right last year, so maybe I will just say that again...

Commencement 2005

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Critiques Footwear Roundup

So the semester reviews are over and we now have an opportunity to go back and review the various footwear choices that were displayed. Although in general a fairly week semester, really only having one standout per session normally, I think there still were quite a few nice choices.

Take a look...

#1, Some nice strappy sandals:



#2, Colorful open-toed slingback:



#3, patterned pointy pump:



#4, nice simple baby-blue slide:



#5, an open toe metallic D'Orsay:



#6, another clean slide with a nice accent:



#7, very slick understated white pointy pumps:



So, comments are welcome - voting is OK but it isn't a democratic process. Winner gets a TANBI t-shirt.

It is possible I may actually be gay.

Day Five - Morning Session

Day Five? Since when is there a day 5?

JOB SEEKING THIRD YEAR GRAD - OFFERS ACCEPTED HERE AND RELAYED NO CHARGE.

Our PTM 3rd Year, Shannon...



... Shannon completed her project on time and on scope, although I'm not certain it is what we thought it would be. Still, lots of good drawings, many good paperwork examples, some decent writing, and a couple of mechanicals. Better than par for the course.

No shoes today, thesis is serious business afterall.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Day Four - Morning Session

JOB SEEKING SENIORS. OFFERS ACCEPTED AND RELAYED FROM HERE - NO CHARGE.

First we have Matt...



... who appears to have suspended himself (get it, he's hanging on a swing). Matt is a job seeking Technical Director who's preference would be to relocate to the LA area.

Next we have Rustin...



... who displayed my production turnover food of choice without knowing it. Rustin is a job seeking Production Manager who in days could make anyone's life easier. He also would like to relocate to the LA area.

Then we have Izzy...



... who is more powerful than a steaming locomotive. Izzy is a PM/SM who would like to work in Event Management, preferably in the Pacific time zone - but would go where the good gig happens to be.

Next up is Beth...



... who finished despite being multi-faceted. Beth is a creative-minded technical manager who will be going on to our ETC program after spending the summer down under working for Don.

Then we have Kate...



.... we were so excited by the possibility of her having winning shoes we forgot to take a picture. This board is better anyway. Kate is a job seeking PM/SM who up until last week figured on anywhere but LA, now less so.

Next we have Harumi...



... who I believe I may not have seen all year long. Harumi is a job seeking stage manager who is currently researching several internship opportunities in the regional theatre world.

Tuesday AM (final) shoe winner:



Kate

I am sorry I forgot your picture, although this should be worth something.

Day Three - Afternoon Session

Our final afternoon session - the "blacks." This semester's order was by favorite color as they appear in the GAM swatchbook.

We lead off (and finish) with Erik...



... who set a goal and thought he met it.

Afternoon shoe winner:



Emily

and I thought the morning had been a slow race.

Day Three - Morning Session

We're back after a weekend recharge.

First up was Kathryn...



... who is making an effort to have more of a presence (maybe overcompensating a little).

And then Sylvia...



... who had a lot of fun with ACCESS.

Morning shoe winner:



Sylvia

in another slow heat.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day Two - Afternoon Session

We continue, AM catering by Mundell, PM catering by Boevers.

We begin with Dominique...



... who believes one strike is a PM career.

Then there was Jonathan...



... who had flashes of brilliance.

And then Shellie...



... who was not permitted to stand in the corner.

Then there was Ian...



... whom it appears I believed I should addresses indefinitely.

Afternoon shoe winner:



Dominique

In a slow heat.

Day Two - Morning Session

It's not class Crits or Alphacrits. I cannot be bound by such convention!

Today we start with Emily...



Who informed us she's leaving :-( ...

And then there was Joel...



... who had the mother of all AI semesters...

Then there was Jessika...



... who did it Di's way.

Morning shoe winner:



Maddie

in what was the toughest shoe section so far!

Then, as a bonus...



... someone left me Skittles. Thank you Skittle fairy!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Day One - Afternoon Session

We continue into the afternoon, no catering.

Beginning with Taylor...



...whom I informed Julie had called a tool.

Next came Dana...



...who showed very nice work from design.

And then Natasha...



...who explained about a "sweet fifteen."

Afternoon shoe winner:



Emily.

I have to go buy some cookies.

Day One - Morning Session

Semester Reviews return and get off to a rip roaring start.

First up we have Julie...



...she said Taylor was an incredible tool.

Next came Chris...



...he had the semester of Dave.

And then Kristen...



...this summer she'll be "working" for MTV.

Thursday AM Shoe Winner:



Laura

The shoes are off to a slow start.

They Fixed My Blog

Today, after a week, the Blogger people got back to me and told me they had fixed the functionality of my other page. Huzzah! I was really unhappy there for a while.

Take a look at the usual posting method by just going to the News From the Real World page. Then go to one of the posts from when the thing was busted. I'd appreciate knowing which posting method you think is more effective.

Turns out that some sort of anti-spam safety had kicked in because the blog has so many posts. The news page has more than 4 times as many posts as this one and is less than half as old. So I guess its a good thing that it cut me off, but still a pain that it took so long to fix.

In my news sampling today I found an article about a movie theatre back home and a guy I knew in high school: New Owners Give Wilmette Theatre Reprieve. Never know what I am going to find reading all of those papers.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

All David Honor Roll

Grades are DONE!

Here are this semester's All David Achievers:

Ms. Bacon
Mr. Degroot
Ms. Lippolis
Mr. Donovan
Ms. Hesch
Mr. Zarn
Ms. Nickerson


Congrats to all for your good work in my little corner of the world! Have a good summer.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ellipses...

Sometimes, Trillian is just downright spooky... It's hard to know what to do with an essay when one person tells you its too long and another tells you its fairly short... Often it seems when people that complain about not having their voice heard are given a chance to speak, they don't... I can't remember if I like Ed Rendell, but I am sure I have no love for Rick Santorum... I think we need more awards at school... The worst part about giving homework, is that you have to grade it. This is especially problematic the last weekend of the semester... I wonder what movie character Secret Service agents relate to, the guy in "Murder at 1600" or maybe the ones in "Absolute Power" perhaps the bad guy in "Airforce One"... Class is over and I hardly noticed... I'm not thrilled about my new parking space... Time to make a list of the summer's home projects... I just can't handle all the TV on Sunday night, have to spread it out with OnDemand... The cat fountain is officially busted. It was good while it lasted... We had the nicest picnic weather I can remember for the departmental barbecue... I wonder why the guy quit the CIA. More time with his family??? Sometimes I think faculty give lousy advice, best to remember they are teachers and professionals - maybe friends, but not family, physicians, or therapists... I believe even today I would still have sent away another helping of bacon wrapped turkey. Still not done digesting... Iran is going to break the treaty if we don't let them disregard the treaty... I hope Peg is recovering nicely...

Typing, typing, typing...

For the renewal file - constructive criticism welcome...

Personal Statement


At the conclusion of each semester at the School of Drama I find myself giving the same short speech over and over.

“…an opportunity for you to tell us about what is working well, and what isn’t, what you have conquered, and maybe what conquered you, what you need to work on, what you are looking forward to, and maybe even a little bit about what you are doing away from the Purnell Center….”

The words are the preamble to each student semester review session. In many ways, the faculty review process although less frequent is looking for the same information.

This review is an opportunity to present the status of efforts in teaching, advising, research, artistic undertaking, career development, and professional service. Although unlike the student reviews, it is likely that the emphasis here will dwell on successes. And why not, it is the successes that make for a strong faculty member, and that enhance the school, the college, and the university as a whole.

Over the last three years I have discovered many things that are working well, and some that are not. The period has been one of unprecedented growth for me professionally. My perspective has come to be much closer to that of the academic model, and I understand the institutional processes and pace of change. I believe I have conquered multiple challenges, although many certainly remain. More importantly I have developed a greater sense for knowing where and when to apply myself to a challenge. I believe I know what the next projects should be, and I very much look forward to the endeavors, both on my own and in collaboration with professional colleagues. I have expanded my sphere of influence and look forward to the continued work to build myself as a professional, increase the profile of this institution within the community, and to better the form as a whole.

I am gratified to have this chance to gather together the various components of my experience over the last three years and to look at them as a single accomplishment for presentation to the review committees. Certainly I hope the work looks as rewarding to you now as it has been for me along the way.

In the broadest terms, I should start by saying I really feel as if I am just hitting my stride. This is manifesting itself along each axis of my experience, but it is worth particular note in the dimension of teaching.

Several years ago I remember attending a School of Drama faculty meeting where we were discussing curriculum. Someone from the university, had come to speak to us as a group. One of the things she said struck me sharply at the time and has stayed with me ever since:

“I don’t feel comfortable teaching a course until I have taught it seven times.”

At the time it stung me because looking around I could count no Production Technology & Management faculty that could ever have been comfortable with course content under that standard. In fact at the time, to my recollection, there may have been no PTM faculty member ever who would have had that opportunity. The idea resonates with me now because I have reached that plateau with several of my courses and I am feeling as if the teaching experience has become different.

Early on, the classroom time was mostly about the outline; making sure I had the correct content accounted for and that I was able to deliver it in the time I had. Musically it would have been a march: defined, precise, and regimented. Recently classroom instruction has been more about where things will go from the outline; what current examples are available, what relevant tangents can be discovered, where the students will drive the lecture themselves with questions. What is on the page is only the structure, what was a march has become much more like jazz. The greatest value of the time is in what comes from improvisation.

My foundation level teaching has become very solid. I believe the Production Planning class in particular has had a tremendous impact. It provides an excellent foundation for students moving into technical direction and production management, but has also built an appreciation of resources in students of design. This resource based approach to production has manifested itself over and over in extremely real world like processes within School of Drama productions. The AutoCAD and Rigging courses have also paid off well in subsequent course work, school productions, and as a tool in the collection of job seeking graduates. The transition of this established material into the new footprint established by the school wide curricular review is an upcoming challenge I am very much looking forward to.

Smaller, upper level teaching has also come along very nicely. Another quote from the past has often provided me with necessary perspective for the management of upper level students. Several years ago in a discussion about student behavior a faculty member made this statement:

“Students don’t respect you until you come with the building.”

This was a phenomenon I definitely feel like I experienced. The beginning of my experience as an instructor at CMU was very much an uphill climb. Several upper level students definitely felt as if losses of some of their existing faculty represented something being taken from them. This posture effected work in advanced classes, in production mentoring, and in work on graduate thesis projects. I am glad to say that between my own development, and the fact that I now do come with the building this issue is significantly better now than in the past. The upper level coursework and thesis projects are much more rigorous and grounded, and the student work has improved congruently.

I had always felt previously that as an instructor I had been too far away from the production process here at the school. I arrived to find a student culture where working with an advisor was considered a weakness or a failure. In the past, just getting a meeting with a student technical director had been a struggle. Getting them to follow advice offered as a suggestion was nearly impossible. Rewardingly, work done by myself and others among the faculty and staff to standardize the production schedule, make the budgeting process more familiar, and to establish expected deliverables from technical directors has gone a long way toward reshaping the student culture. There are still some students who feel an advisors input represents meddling, there always will be, the cowboy mentality is common among people that pursue this kind of work. But that student is now in the minority.

One of the biggest stride hitting moments of late was the implementation of the production “crazy scheme.” For many reasons it seemed like we might be better off pedagogically if we shifted away from the traditional way we had always staffed our shows. School of Drama productions had always been handled as if we were a small regional theatre and therefore each show got a Technical Director, an Assistant Technical Director, and a Master Carpenter. The people with those titles worked on the one project from beginning to end and were limited to working on that production for the duration. This tended to have people working on projects for prolonged periods regardless of the workload and to have individual students assigned to work that didn’t necessarily match their aptitude or experience. Shifting from a regional theatre to a commercial scene shop model very much improved this situation. By essentially putting the full group to work on all of the productions we were able to put people where they were best suited when they were most needed. The new structure also provided new opportunities for both lower and higher level students, giving the former an opportunity to taste the experience without carrying the full load and the latter an opportunity to concurrently manage several production efforts. Again, the continued development of this effort in the context of the curricular review is a project I look forward to.

The curricular development work that the school has engaged in over the last three years has been a tremendous experience. I have to confess to falling for the process head over heels. I am a person who often questions why I am doing something and someone that likes things to make sense and track back to the source. The process going from mission/vision, through school pillars, on to learning objectives, vetting through survey and focus groups, matching to discipline mastery grids, and transitioning into new syllabi has been astounding. I feel like we are all so much better off for having done it, and I feel privileged to having been present on the committees that have done the work. Having such a cohesive plan and foundation is almost decadent. Students will benefit from this work for years to come.

I have brought this foundation to bear on every level of the work I am doing. Syllabi and project work are always matched to mastery models, looking at aptitudes as well as trying to form a holistic path from where the students are coming from and where they need to finish. I have gone as far as to map each assignment to the school’s strategic planning pillars, indicating which projects provide exploration through education, leadership, community, experimentation, or diversity.

This indexing has shown me where I have gaps in my coursework, allowing me to provide new content and projects to help meet these school wide goals.

Another direct response to these goals has been the creation of a web portal News from the Real World (http://cmuptm.blogspot.com). Principally as a facilitation of the Community pillar, the page provides links to other School of Drama resources, to course syllabi, listings of School and University announcements, a record of homework assistance, and most importantly links to theatre arts news from over 60 regional sources. Articles featured center on community, leadership, and experimentation through the context of new work, producing, new technology, and labor organizing. At the top of the previous academic year students in my courses were unaware of ongoing labor negotiations between the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and IATSE Local #3 (International Alliance of Stage Employees). Hopefully the presence and integration of this web news portal will promote our local community news in such a way that the students are no longer so detached. I look forward to maintaining this resource, and to making available to an expanded group of students, alumni, and professionals.

Things feeling like they have been falling into place well are not limited to the teaching portion of my work. In the realm of career development, things like creative projects and research, projects have been coming along very nicely as well. The last couple of years have seen opportunities for publishing, national presentations, and direct contribution to the entertainment industry as a whole.

This past November saw the culmination of my longest running project. Tracking back to graduate school I have been researching and working on the implementation of an entertainment industry technical skill certification. My graduate thesis was a study of industrial certification. I then worked with ESTA (Entertainment Service and Technology Association) on continued research, industry surveying, and laying the groundwork for a certification program. Prior to last November I was working with the ETCP (Entertainment Technician Certification Program) as a subject matter expert on the development of a certification test for Theatrical Riggers. Last fall the program went live, and I am proud to say that as well as now being one of the first class of certified riggers, I was also one of the team that made the certification a reality in the first place. Next I hope to have my Rigging Seminar syllabus accredited by the ETCP for continuing education credit for certified riggers.

The certification work has occupied most of the available time for this segment of my career. However, even so there has been other progress as well. I have managed to make some inroads into publishing; I recently authored three articles and participated as an editor on a book. I have begun to build an industry presence as a consultant in rigging and architecture. I am hoping to be able to expand that presence into more general technical direction and into education, a book would seem to be a requirement for that and I have begun that project as well. And even though technical direction opportunities are few and far between for someone that has a full time job, I even had the chance to TD a show this last year for the School of Music. I believe continued development along all of these paths is instrumental to my professional growth and am committed to doing what is necessary to continue my progress.

The work I have done previously with ESTA and the ETCP has lead to other opportunities for industry service. Currently I am also working with ESTA on a working group researching essential technician skills, and another group working to publish the results, probably online for the use of the entire industry. I’ve also attained a leadership position within USITT (United States Institute of Theatre Technology) as a project leader for commercial theatre outreach. As a working professional and as an instructor at a high end theatre school I have become worried about the disconnect between the commercial sector of scenic fabrication and the rest of the industry. My project is investigating ways of bringing the groups together. One of the aims of the work is to provide an atmosphere on cooperation between the commercial and educational sectors of scenic fabrication like we see in other industries.

As often as possible, I try to bring any of this outside work to the classroom as quickly as possible. The ETCP work has already started to change my Rigging and Technical Design syllabi. The ESTA projects have worked their way into discussions of the new “Basic PTM” class launching this fall. I am hoping that the USITT work will generate guests and master classes, as well as possible research partnerships with scenic fabricators and industry vendors. Although this outside work is interesting of its own right, the synergy between the teaching, research, and service is what makes being a professor at CMU so rewarding.

If I may, without being too heavy handed, there are a couple of things I would like to especially call to the attention of the committee and reviewers:

First and foremost I want to reiterate the culmination of the certification work. This has been no less than a 10 year process, involving a who’s who of people from the entertainment technology field. Being a part of it has been immeasurably rewarding for myself, and a great step forward for the industry and for workplace safety.

With regard to outside “creative activities.” It is simply not possible for a Technical Director to pick up projects in the manner that a faculty member in Design or Directing can. Entertainment companies hire artistic staff as jobbers, freelancers for show specific projects. The same companies looking to hire someone for Technical Direction are looking for a full time employee. The result being that the only high profile, career enhancing opportunities available currently to someone in my field are only available at the expense of my teaching position. However, in spite of this handicap I believe I have been successful, as even from a somewhat lower profile project like the School of Music opera which I worked on as Technical Director I did manage to convert a very successful project for my upper level course (Technical Design Project #1: Albert Herring Shelves) and an article published in a national magazine (“Roll Me Away.” Lighting and Sound America March 2006). A different rubric must be applied to evaluate professors in production fields.

While preparing this renewal package I’ve of course looked back to the previous submission. That personal statement stressed my commitment to the formation of an artistic home, to excellence in production and education, to a strong foundation and explaining the reasoning behind traditional solutions, to collaboration, creativity and professionalism, and to my own esprit de corps for the school. I still feel passionately about all of those things, if maybe a little less frenziedly. The work of the intervening years has advanced all of those causes, and I believe that my own personal growth, that my experience and perspective have only made me that much better at what I do, and so much better at collaborating with the other faculty here at CMU. I am optimistic and excited about the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. I look forward to having my chance to move forward.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bringing the Link of the Day to You!

I was going to make this a link of the day, but I found a cool way to bring it right to you right here:



Since we are bringing you an added value, I am required - for reasons that aren't worth explaining - to have a sponsor for this post. Today's embedded video is brought to you by the cool people at Dailymotion and our good friends at the Victory Brewing Company, makers of Golden Monkey.

One Golden Monkey will fuck you up!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Scheme Appreciation Dinner

John Matt Kathryn Chris Ian Shannon Kevin David Erik Beth

Tonight Uncle Andy took my team to dinner. They all worked real hard this year, trying to make sense of this crazy idea I had last year to try to stretch our resources much more further. All in all they did very well.

So we took them to The Green Forest. Brazilian barbecue. All you can eat meat on swords.

I think I am going to hurl.

Big thank you to my guys!

Ellipses...

Blogger hates me, or maybe just my other blog... I can't seem to find video of Steven Colbert at the Whitehouse Correspondents' dinner. That's too bad... Now, at the last possible second people are posting comments to the news page. Better than nothing I guess... Brey'tak eats so fast, as often as not he just pukes the food up again... The more people you ask, the more revisions you have to make to your CV... Really there's nothing like having your very own electric hole punch. I recommend it... Two days of class left. After that I will have no class... Crazy Scheme dinner tomorrow night - at a still undisclosed location... I don't remember rain being such a disaster for airline schedules when I was growing up. I wonder what happened... Really, I don't think instructors ever want anyone to do badly in their courses. I tend to feel bad when people do badly... I miss Trinity... I think I will use some TANBI posts in my binder, but there will be some serious culling first... Parking made me change lots. Its so retro, like back to my first year teaching... I wonder if George Clooney really is the solution to the problems in Darfur... Why on Earth has Peg stopped blogging? I wonder... I still don't like Rick Santorum... I don't think this President ought to mock himself - its sort of redundant... Does anyone know why everything has to be due all at once??? Income tax refund today. WOOHOO!!!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

DP Alumni Type People

Have you got work you did for one of my homework assignments in any class you are really proud of?

I am supposed to include some examples of student work in my case binder for tenure/promotion. If you've got something excellent, I'd love to have it.

Let me know.

Thanks!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Would You Use This?

Today I ran about 100 pages of this blog out of my printer, everything that was work related. I collated all of the posts into one big .pdf:



Now I am left with a question: should I use this stuff? Use it for what you say? I have to put together "supplimental materials" for my review binder. So that's what I am wondering about - is this stuff a positive contribution to my case?

Whatcha think?