Bryan Ringsted (he/him) Theater Teacher/Director Notre Dame High School 596 South Second Street San Jose, CA 95112 www.ndsj.org A distinctive Catholic, college-preparatory education for young women in the heart of downtown since 1851
Simple fact is, the body of knowledge a competent, qualified, all-areas theater technician needs to master to run a K-12 venue is FAR more complex now than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. When I started we had Lekos, pars, scoops, and Fresnels - each with a sheet of gel, plugged into a circuit, patched to a dimmer and run by a 36 channel, two-scene preset board that took two people to run. Now it's unlimited kinds of fixtures, universes of networked DMX addresses, both dimmers and thru-power, subtractive and additive color mixing that requires a passing understanding of metameters, PTZ control of some fixtures, all operated by a task-specific, computerized control system, the mastery of which can take a lifetime to learn as functionality is continually updated by the manufacturer.
Couple that with the fact there is much greater demand for those skills. Remember, 30% of live events tech folks didn't return post-COVID, so demand is through the roof. I'm seeing professional compensation double or more in some areas. Schools are offering dismal pay and benefits compared to professional event producers of all kinds. I applied for a trio of K-12 school TD jobs last year and was offered each of them, each of which offered compensation anywhere from $20-50K LESS than I was making working a 9-5 job for a commercial AV integrator. One school district I talked with three years in a row - they keep hiring people who are incompetent and then letting them go. I would have thought that principal might have figured it out by the time we had the same conversation the third time, but I see the job is open again. My heart goes out to those kids.
I regularly see new schools built with equipment NOT suitable for HS students to use and learn with, that same equipment then sits idle because the teachers don't know how to run it either. That's a poor ROI for us as taxpayers and a lost opportunity for our students.
This is all part of why I started the "Technical Theater for Performing Arts Teachers" summer classes at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, so music, dance and theater teachers who need to learn to use this equipment have a place they can do that which works with the schedule for a full-time teacher. Next summer has classes in Lighting, Safety and Management.
I'd love to see "Technical Theater" become a certification area just as "theater" alone is one in most states. And we need to have the standards reflect EXECUTION not just Design (which is often more akin to a Google scavenger hunt that actual design skills.)
Now I'm at Madison College leading the "Stage and Entertainment Technology Certificate" - a one year program to be employable as a competent, qualified live events tech/stagehand, but can also be part of a transferrable, liberal arts Associate degree for pre-service teachers or other Bachelors programs..
Have students who like tech theater and want to earn a living at it? Send 'em my way. You all are welcome, too!
Stage and Entertainment Technology Certificate | Madison College
Bryan Ringsted (he/him) Theater Teacher/Director Notre Dame High School 596 South Second Street San Jose, CA 95112
A distinctive Catholic, college-preparatory education for young women in the heart of downtown since 1851
I'd love to send you some folks!
Program isn't full, and I have some latitude to expand to meet demand if the current classes fill up. Plus there are scholarships, paid internships, work-study and part-time gigs to "earn while you learn."
Yep! This year's classes will be:
I've been following this post, but haven't had time to respond, because, well, I've been in the theatre. 'Tis the season!
In my book "High School Theatre Operations" I have a whole chapter on Staffing. Perhaps something to take to your admin to read (if they will?). In my ideal high school theatre world, my 'staffing model' looks something like this:
Drama TeacherInstrumental Music TeacherVocal Music TeacherDance TeacherCTE Tech Theatre TeacherTheatre ManagerTD (Lead Technician)One dedicated Lighting Technician and one subOne dedicated Sound Technician and one subOne dedicated Stage/Rigging Technician and one subPaid Student Crew
I have only worked in one high school theatre that came anywhere close to this. (I was the resident lighting designer for several years.)
The trouble is…
Grade school administration doesn't realize that no one can do everything in the theatre. Yes, a 'well rounded' TD is like gold(!). Although, as George mentions, I do find that most are either proficient at technology, or design, but not both. A drama (acting) teacher who has a 'well rounded' degree, has usually only done one quarter of sets and rigging, one quarter of lights, one quarter of sound, one quarter of costumes, one quarter of SM, and so on at university. And some of those may have been options, as long as they did some "tech". This hardly qualifies them to be teaching tech theatre. And even tech majors specialize. I (educational theatre operations manager and lighting designer), for instance, couldn't tell you 'what all those buttons do' on a sound board. I can get a wireless mic to work, to my credit. My degree was specifically lighting design. And that was in the 80's. So what all those LEDs and movers and universes and addresses are about, I don't know – I heavily rely on my digital-native techs and student techs. I still don't understand why, when I ask my light board op to bring an instrument up to 10, why it looks so dark! (JK, BTW.)
Right now the website of a school district near me has 8 openings for their Track and Field program; Throws Coach, Assistant Throws Coach, Jumping Coach, Horizontal Jumps Coach, High Jumps Coach, Sprinting Coach, Pole Vault Coach, and a Head Track and Field Coach. Surely the Head Track and Field Coach could teach all those, right? Baseball season has just as many specialty coaching positions advertised, and don't get me started on Football season. The specialties in a theatre are as varied as the specialties in a sports team. Plus, there are possibly 10 to 20 students on a sports team, while there can be dozens, if not over a hundred, students involved in a production. Why can we not have a 'lighting coach', a 'sound coach', a 'costume coach', a 'rigging coach', and so on?
I don't think theatre specialties are ever going to mesh, any more than sports specialties. I certainly have no aptitude for gains and DI boxes. I'm all for each area of tech having an understanding of what all other areas do (did I mention I got a D in Costumes at university…), and while it may be necessary at this time to continue to enable school administrators' mandates that we do everything, by trying to do everything, it's just as important to persist in educating administrators that this simply isn't the way it is in the real world (like sports), and that they need to hire accordingly.
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