Two OISTAT commissions met recently. Below are reports from USITT's liaisons: Cindy Limauro on the Education Commission and
Fritz Schwentker on the Technology Commission.
Education Meeting Displays
Fifty-three delegates from 28 countries attended the OISTAT Education Commission Meeting in the United Kingdom November 29 through December 4. The symposium focused on Design as Performance and Interdisciplinarity in Theatre Education. Specific themes included Design as Performance, Interaction of Teaching and Practice, and Interdisciplinarity and the Specialist.
Representatives from nine United Kingdom schools gave a presentation describing their pedagogic approach to the program regarding interdisciplinary activity. The schools were Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, Central School of Speech and Drama, Croydon College, The Laban Centre, London College of Fashion, Northbrook College, Rose Bruford College, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and Wimbledon School of Art.
It was interesting that, while the schools shared some commonalities regarding design foundations, each school was able to define a specific niche within their course.
To serve as a catalyst for discussion, three OISTA delegates gave thought provoking presentations. Dorita Hannah, from the College of Creative Arts in New Zealand, talked about performance design as an interdisciplinary practice and program. She described a student project that explored how people move in a city with different temporal rhythms working with bodies in space and time. She defined the process through the steps of event, time, body, landscape, object, space, and virtuality.
Michael Ramsaur, from Stanford University and President of OISTAT, looked at the dramatic changes in teaching lighting design over the past decade. He noted that, with the advances in technology, there has been a great shift in specialization between educating the lighting designer versus the lighting technician.
Marina Raytchinova from the National Academy of Art in Bulgaria showed examples of students’ “designer-led” performance videos and talked about the marriage between a strong fine arts tradition and new media, and the challenge this represents for students in transition from the academic to the professional environment.
The roundtable discussion that followed really focused on interdisciplinarity versus specialization in education. The theme resonates across all countries especially in how to provide the right balance between producing a well-rounded, collaborative, thinking artist without sacrificing the specialized skills necessary to find employment in the industry.
The symposium continued with OISTAT delegates describing how they teach their specific discipline. Cindy Limauro from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama talked about the very specialized lighting design track that encompasses a holistic approach of design artistry, technical lighting, and technology. This is then combined with an interdisciplinary approach to studying drama in collaboration with actors, directors, designers, stage managers, production managers, and technical theatre students. Specific class projects demonstrated cross option approaches in theatre, opera, dance, television, and architecture. Examples of cross disciplinary thinking also involved interaction between the arts and the sciences. University mini courses are created around drama productions which are then team taught by a variety of professors across the disciplines.
Weiwen Chang from Taipei University of the Arts in Taiwan presented the pedagogical approaches to design education in Taiwan and her experience working on design as performance projects in both Taiwan and Brazil.
Scott Palmer and Joslin McKinney from the University of Leeds gave a joint presentation. Mr. Palmer showed video from two student projects. Projecting Performance had a student at a lighting console creating a dancing partner through projection with a live performer. Another project, Dancing in the Streets, used infrared for the dancer to trigger the scenography of projection images. Ms. McKinney talked about the types of research going on in their university. How does costume influence the development of performance? How do masks from one culture communicate to audiences from other cultures? She also introduced a new term of “scenochoreography.”
Rosie Lam Tung from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts gave an in-depth look into the first year of the program. She outlined the five steps to the creative process: fact finding, problem finding, idea finding, solution finding, and acceptance finding followed by evaluation.
Cristina Sauza from the National School of Theatre in Mexico showed specific examples of student work in costume design and scene design.
Chris Van Goethem from the RITS School in Brussels talked about the interaction between teaching and practice in Technical Theatre Education based on a theatre company model. He runs two programs simultaneously, the traditional student-based track coming out of secondary schools and an accelerated track for professionals with life experience wanting to be retrained for employment in technical theatre. Two catchy course titles that stood out were Ear Cleaning (learning to listen, analyze, contextualize and then talk about it) and The Importance of Coffee (really a look at collaboration and professional respect).
Lee Zen Chien from the Taipei National University of the Arts presented an intriguing approach to building bridges between text and light by analyzing lighting composition using Yi Jing (The Book of Changes) as a tool. He showed specific examples of using color and abstract images to make the connection between ideas.
More United Kingdom delegates gave a diverse range of presentations. Liam Doona from Nottingham Trent University, Paul Barrett from the University of Central England, Bennie Wilshaw from the Cleveland College of Art and Design, Greer Crawley from Buckinghamshire Chilterns, and Roger Maidment from Trinity College, all described a pedagogic approach focusing on the wider context of education.
Goeff Joyce from the Association of British Theatre technicians described the continuing education surrounding health and safety, while Nettie Scriven and Peter Rumney from NTU Spaces presented projects working with five- to six-year-old children with autism and other emotional problems. Using the children’s input, a performance is created with the children and professionals working together to make the story. It is a unique collaboration and allows the students an emotional outlet for expression.
Sean Crowley and Christine Marfleet from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama presented a very interesting, site-specific puppetry performance created by the students. Simon Banham and Richard Downing from Aberystwyth, University of Wales, provided pre-dinner entertainment with a presentation of how they teach on the first day of classes that bordered on being a performance art piece about cooking and recipes for success. Using an overhead projector and different media, Mr. Banham created thought provoking quotes from across disciplines that represented a way of looking at the world through art and design. While he worked at a fast pace accompanied by music, Mr. Downing created a floating structure with which he gathered balloons blown up by the audience with their own contributions written on the balloons.
A highlight of the symposium was getting to see live performances of student work. Certainly, a common thread in United Kingdom education is design as performance. While this doesn’t exclude the participation of actors and directors, the work is conceived and initiated by designers. The range of work seen included a site-specific production by Shunt in the Vaults at London Bridge, devised theatre, puppetry, the use of multi-media in performance, and an installation piece by Kathy Sandys students from LIPA in collaboration with students from Nottingham Trent University.
The four day symposium sparked much discussion across cultural boundaries. It was both reassuring to find out how much everyone has in common, and at the same time it was great to celebrate the diversity of ideas and approaches to education. The business meetings of the Education Commission focused on the activities of Scenofest and the next Prague Quadrennial which can be seen on the OISTAT web site.
Focuses on Communication
Communication was the key focus for the 10 delegates of the OISTAT Technology Commission at its annual meeting November 16 to 20, 2005 in Taipei City, Taiwan.
The Commission meetings were held in conjunction with the OISTAT Governing Board meetings at National Chiang Kai Shek Cultural Center. The Commission participated in ceremonies associated with the relocation of the OISTAT Secretariat to Taiwan. In addition to its business meeting, it held four seminars open to Taiwan Association of Theatre Technology (TATT) colleagues and members of the theatre technology community in Taiwan.
Among the highlights of the meeting of interest to USITT members was a discussion of how best the Commission will be able to serve its constituency worldwide. In the past, the Commission has been a venue for assembling and disseminating information. This role will change somewhat since electronic communication has enabled much of the information previously gathered by OISTAT working groups to be put directly into the hands of practitioners. Look for the Technology Commission to develop its web site as a location to find relevant information worldwide.
Members also are highly committed to increasing communication with and assistance to practitioners of theatre technology in economically challenged and emerging countries. Many individual members already offer support such as equipment and supplies, but as a Commission, the scope of such work could increase and serve as a way to offer an extended exchange of expertise.
Part of the meeting was dedicated to a teleconference on the development of a European Committee for Standardization (CEN) standard on "Lifting equipment for stages within the entertainment industry." While this particular discussion was relevant mostly to our European colleagues, it complements the work already taking place with the support of USITT within ESTA. The standard in question is quite far-ranging and will be based on the German national standard (DIN). USITT members interested in understanding this process should contact one of the Commission members.
Ivo Kersmaekers of Belgium was elected to replace John Mayberry of Canada as chair of the OISTAT Technology Committee. Mr. Mayberry led the commission for an extra half-term at the request of the Governing Board. His leadership during this time was well appreciated, and he will continue as vice-chair.
The 10 delegates who attended were: Mr. Mayberry, CITT, Canada; Sándor Böröcz, OPAKFI, Hungary; Fritz Schwentker, USITT, United States; Bert Determann, VPT, Netherlands; Christe (Joey) Nombres, PATDAT, Philippines; Pavel Dautovský, COSDAT, Czech Republic; Kelvin Tsang Man-Tung, HKATTS, Honk Kong; Martin Tschermak, DTHG, Germany; Pu Lin TATT, Taiwan; and Louis Janssen, VPT, Netherlands.
On the second afternoon, members participated in seminars hosted by friends from TATT. Mr. Mayberry of York University led off with a very useful and lively discussion on the difficulties of grading theatre technology students on work outside the classroom. Hsien-hui Lee of National Formosa University then discussed his previous work on the production of digital and multimedia theatre.
The second half of the sessions started with Mr. Janssen, a theatre consultant from the Netherlands, documenting his successes in completing the re-rigging of most of his country's theatres using automated systems as now virtually required by statute. He described the concept of the "clean grid" in which nearly unobstructed access to the space between the gridiron and roof structure of the fly loft is possible.
Reinhold Daberto completed the seminars using his redesign of a theatre complex in Nuremburg, Germany as an example of how the challenges and new economic realities of state supported arts projects in his country.