Simpson theatre program leads to student success

by Steffi Lee

Here at Simpson College, theater majors prepare and perform entire productions, while experiencing the many benefits beyond just performances.

Hosted by University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Festival 45, for Region Five of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, took place from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26. All festival participants were able to participate in different workshops to improve their understanding of theater. However, Festival 45 offered more than just skill-building workshops. There were exhibitions, and Simpson’s very own Chris Williams placed second nationally in the Design, Technology and Management Expo.

Williams is a senior at Simpson and is majoring in theater and minoring in computer information systems. As an actively involved high school student in theater, Williams came to Simpson to continue his involvement. For the fall semester of 2012, Theatre Simpson ‘s theater department put on a production for Alice’s Trip: A Movement Adventure. Williams was notified of his position as video designer for Alice’s Trip last May, and he spent a majority of his summer planning what he was going to execute for the production. His position ultimately provided him with material for his submission to the exhibition, also known as EXPO. The categories in which students competed under varied, ranging from set design to lighting design.

“[For this exhibition], I fell under what’s called Allied Crafts,” Williams said. “What that one consists of is stuff that’s not usually run-of-the-mill, like light, set, sounds and hair and makeup.”

For the exhibition, Williams constructed and assembled different parts to create an overall presentation for EXPO.

“The way that the whole process goes [is that] we make a design board, and the design board has some post-production shots,” Williams said. “The board must tell a story. On one side of the board, I had how I filmed certain live shots. It’s a foam board that tells how your design process went, and how your finished product came to be.”

Another side of Williams’s board presented his filming techniques, which also involved the film equipment he used. The center of his board showed the finished product of his work on the production.

“I also had a video sample playing of some of the stuff in the production when it played,” Williams said. “I also had a design book, which kept all of my notes, the script that I used, some of my technical readouts and some of my personal notes to what I needed to finish that day.”

The design book also contained an abundance of personal journal entries for Williams’s designs.

During the exhibition, a professional designer from another school would ask other students questions about their materials during the expo.

“You have a chat for about 5 to 10 minutes about the entire process and why you did what you did,” Williams said.

The judging process for the competition involved a committee of designers and professionals from other colleges, Williams explained. In the end, they cast a vote for the most outstanding entry.

Festival 45 is an annual festival, and for the previous year, Williams entered and won first place regionally with a sound design from the production Eurydice.

Winning second place nationally for Allied Crafts has definitely instilled a lot of happiness and confidence in Williams.

“I’m stoked,” Williams said. “[The award is] not essential, but it’s nice to know that other people like my work.”

Jennifer Nostrala, department chair and professor of theater arts, said Williams’s achievements help reflect positively on the quality of Simpson’s theater department.

“Recognition by theatrer professionals, of course, reflects positively on the quality of our programming and our students,” Nostrala said.  “It is important to note that many schools participate and many of the students are graduate students.”

Williams went into this competition knowing he was unique in video design but was still thoroughly amazed by other crafts from other designers.

“There was a guy [from another school] who machined and made every single weapon,” Williams said. “They, in their shop, crafted all of the guns by plastic PVC pipes and wood.”

Williams initially pursued only acting when he entered Simpson his freshman year, but with the experiences he has gained from the theater department, he has now branched out. He sees himself working with sound engineering after graduating from Simpson but ultimately wants to establish a career in acting.

Theater has presented a life of dedication and devotion to Williams. For him, this award illustrates that his work has paid off.