Baldwin Wallace University’s Design and Tech Program has recently been honored for its success in preparing students for the professional world.
Even with its widely-known success, the Design and Tech Program is currently facing challenges, like the need for an adequate work space and up-to-date equipment.
Despite these challenges, the program continues to look forward, with plans for a new BFA in technical theatre underway.
The Design and Tech Program was recently listed in OnStage Blog’s article “The Top 30 College Theatre Design and Tech Programs for 2019-2020.”
“I think one of the reasons OnStage Blog likes us is that faculty here works professionally,” said Charlotte Yetman, costume design program coordinator and professor of theatre. “And when we work professionally we take our students with us.”
Yetman, along with former Baldwin Wallace staff member Jeff Herrmann, has built the Design and Tech Program to where it is today.
Yetman has had student assistants work with her at Great Lakes Theatre and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for experience in the field.
In addition to working under the mentorship of professors, students explore the field on their own through jobs at summer stock theatres, and internships at the Cleveland Playhouse, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, and Dobama Theatre, said Yetman.
During the school year, Design and Tech Program students work on productions across different departments.
“The department’s very active. We do over 10 productions per year in musical theatre, plays, opera, and dance,” said Yetman. “We do it all.”
This semester, the costume shop is working on three shows at once: “Kinky Boots,”“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” and “Uncle Vanya.”
While working on shows for multiple departments gives students experience in different areas, it also presents some challenges, said Yetman.
“The costume shop needs to be three times bigger than it is right now to accommodate the shows we do. The space was designed to only work on one show at a time, so we’re really crowded,” said Yetman.
In addition to facing issues regarding space, the program is working with “archaic lighting equipment,” said Yetman, “which is problematic for us because now it’s our challenge to expose them to more up-to-date equipment without actually having it here.”
With some classes in mind, the Design and Tech Program is working on creating a BFA in technical theatre.
“We’re proposing a couple classes this semester that we hope will get passed and those classes will be the basis of us creating the BFA,” said Yetman. “We’re growing it at a pace we feel we can accomplish it. And we’re waiting on the hire of our new set design professor because we also want them to chime in on what they want to see.”
The Design and Tech Program at Baldwin Wallace has some requirements that are not seen at other undergraduate schools.
For example, students in the program are required to put together a portfolio prior to graduation. Requirements like this are indications of higher standards for education, said Yetman.
“We’ve been making waves at USITT [United States Institute of Theatre Technology] because a lot of undergraduate programs do not require a portfolio, and we actually do,” said Yetman.
The program’s staff guides students in putting together portfolios that will get them work.
“We encourage them when they’re working on something to take pictures in-process so that they can show prospective employers,” said Yetman. “For the design-technical students, their portfolio is what’s going to really get them their work. When they go for an interview, they have to show the employer what they can do.”
Many students from the Design and Tech Program at Baldwin Wallace have successful careers after graduation.
Students who have graduated from the program have gone on to continue their education at Yale University, New York University, San Diego State University, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which are “top notch grad schools,” said Yetman.
The level of success seen by students after graduation is a factor that has led to the proposed creation of the BFA program.
“We’ve been pushing it for years. And we know we’ve been pushing the students to advance at a higher pace than most programs require,” said Yetman.
Yetman’s students continue to show dedication to the field.
“They work really hard,” said Yetman. “They care so much about the work that they’re doing. And I think it really shows in the quality of their work.”