Theatre faculty selected to judge regional competition

An award-winning Northeast State alumnus and Theatre faculty member was invited to join a judging panel at a regional theatrical design competition in January.

Instructor Brad McKenzie was invited by the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) to adjudicate technical competitors at the institute’s Southwest Regional Conference held at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

The conference included a competition for design and technical artists from the region’s member institutions. Judges reviewed technical categories including lighting and sound design as well as costuming and make-up done by competitors.

“This was my first foray into adjudicating a competition,” said McKenzie. “It was certainly a great opportunity to network with theatre professionals and talk to them about our program and Northeast State.”

McKenzie served as one of six adjudicators for the competition. His own work has won several awards in the annual Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. His reputation for excellence in technical design and teaching the process of modeling design concepts piqued the interest of conference organizers.

McKenzie described modeling as sketching design ideas on paper with pencil to better understand light and setting for a scene. A three-dimensional model drawing demonstrates how light and shadow should frame a production.

“It is not used often, but I like it because you get a better sense of how light renders and moves,” he said.

Judges for USITT critique a nominee’s process from initial idea to realization on the stage. McKenzie also taught a workshop about lighting design to a class of 25 students and theatre professionals. As with his Northeast State students, McKenzie said he emphasized the art of technical theatre trade as a marketable skill for the industry.

“When you are a designer, you have experience operating a piece of theatre equipment or possess a skill set that people need in live performances,” said McKenzie. “Those are very specialized skills that are needed in performance areas. The job market for technical theatre professionals is way better than that for performance.”

McKenzie was among the College’s first theatre majors when the program was established. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree at East Tennessee State University and his master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. McKenzie was named a full-time instructor at Northeast State last year. He worked as technical director and lighting designer for several Northeast State Theatre productions before becoming a full-time faculty member last year. He has also written original stage adaptations for I,Ebenezer, and The Odyssey Abridged: A Puppet Journey of Epic Proportions both performed by Northeast State Theatre.

McKenzie noted that the top-tier technical effects for theatre were becoming more available as equipment became more refined and affordable. He added that Northeast State’s decision to build a top quality venue in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts raised the bar for students’ training and live performance innovation by the department.

“At Northeast State, we are fortunate to have fantastic technical capabilities and tremendous facilities available with the RCPA Theatre to train students, showcase their work, and stage shows with high production value,” said McKenzie. “I want to share our students’ abilities and skills with as many people in the theatre industry as possible.”

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