Theater Design & Technology (BFA)
Apply your creativity and problem-solving skills to the world of theater production—lighting, costume, scenery, projection, sound design and technical direction—through the Theater Design & Technology program in the University of the Arts’ Ira Brind School of Theater Arts.
Roles like lighting, set, sound and costume designers are crucial to an audience’s ability to be transported by a live production. And from day one, UArts’ Theater Design and Technology students get a real-world, hands-on education from working professionals and through the wide range of productions that happen on campus each year.
Students have the opportunity to work as both designers and technicians on a wide range of Brind School productions each semester. You can choose, and change, your design or technical focus to explore your interests and hone your expertise. Hands-on experiences are supported through classroom mentorship and complementary coursework.
The Theater Design and Technology program hosts an annual Portfolio Day. Students across all four years of the BFA program display work from classes, productions and independent projects to visiting professionals, faculty, colleagues, friends and family. This event is a celebration of their work and an opportunity to introduce them and their work to the professional community. This year, the event was launched online virtually May 4, 2020. Visitors can see the work displayed in individual galleries and leave comments on what they see.
Larry Barnes BFA ’19 (Theater Design & Technology), graduate of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts, was recently hired as the new lighting director of Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. We caught up with Larry to see what he’s up to.
UArts: Transition to post-grad life―what’s different and what’s the same?
Barnes: It is surprisingly similar. I still work almost 90-hour weeks and free time is still a running joke in my friend group. The [Theater] Design Tech major at UArts did a fantastic job preparing me for post-grad. I am very grateful for the teachers I have had.
UArts: What does your day-to-day look like as lighting director of Wells Fargo Center?
Barnes: My day-to-day is actually surprisingly simple. After being exposed to the freelance design and tech side of the industry, it was and still is a huge adjustment to be going to the same place doing a very similar show day-in and day-out. On a game day for the Flyers, I come into the arena around 10 a.m., and I test everything. I make sure all of the lighting is working and that the projection system is online.
New for me is, I am also responsible for checking the automation system to make sure there is not a fault in it. If there is an issue with any of these systems, I spend the rest of the day troubleshooting and calling companies to get things fixed. When there are new open videos or period rejoins, I will design a time-coded lighting show to accompany the video the team produces.
My favorite part of my everyday is that I need to go out onto the NHL ice to load cans of fuel into our pyrotechnics machines. Getting to shoot eight 40-foot flames has not gotten old, and I can not foresee it getting old anytime soon.
UArts: Have you worked on any cool events or projects there recently?
Barnes: I work every single Flyers, 76ers, Villanova and Wings game so if you are into sports, then yes―every day!
UArts: What professional experience did you get as an undergrad?
Barnes: I worked around Philadelphia as an overhire electrician since day one of college. I also programmed and designed as many shows at school as I possibly could, which really helped. I interned once with Rosey Hay at Rev Theatre Company, where I did sound for Hamlet. I then interned with a design company called Fragment Nine on Keith Urban’s Graffiti U tour. I was the assistant video designer. Every Internship I had was paid.
UArts: What was your favorite class at UArts?
Barnes: Existential Philosophy or Lighting Practicum! Question everything! Then design.
UArts: You’re also a projection designer. What was your favorite project to work on?
Barnes: Right as I got hired at the arena full time, I was working on a Fringe piece called Manifest Destiny, which featured three projection screens for a rock opera. I made all of the content and designed lighting, set and projections. It definitely took a few years off my life but I was very happy with the process.
UArts: You studied abroad in London. How was it?
Barnes: Plain and simple―I would not be prepared for the work I am doing now if I had not studied abroad. I could talk for hours about this but, simply put, UArts gave me all of the foundational design skills I could ever dream of. When I was looking to study abroad, I wanted a school that would fill in the gaps of my education so I went to a school (Rose Bruford College) specifically for lighting programming. I spent every day abroad soaking up as much information as I could. I left with an extremely robust training.
UArts: Why did you choose to stay in Philly?
Barnes: There is work here! Philadelphia is a beautiful city with a thriving theater and arts scene. I don’t know if I will ever leave!
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The Theater Design & Technology Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) at University of the Arts in Philadelphia will train you in a range of theatrical design and technical areas. Building on a strong base of theater history, collaboration and script analysis, you’ll be able to select from each of the core areas: set, costume, lighting, sound, projection design or technical direction, and then choose two or more of those areas as your focus. You’ll gain hands-on experience, classroom mentorship and coursework that strengthens your skill set.
Sample Courses in the Theater Design + Technology Major
About the Curriculum
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Design + Technology provides education and broad training in the full range of theatrical design and technical areas followed by more concentrated study and practical work in a chosen area of focus.
Studies begin with the school-wide foundation of theatre history and script analysis and then are immersed in courses of collaborative conceptual study with directors and playwrights. The program combines a wide scope of design courses with specific crafts classes taught by professionals in their fields. Students select studio training from the six core areas: set design, costume design, lighting design, sound design, projection design and technical theater, and then choose one or more of these areas as a focus.
Studio work is complimented with extensive hands-on experience on a variety of productions in the Brind School season. Upper-level studies include realized design or technical work; two significant professional-theater internships; and the development of a professional-grade display and interview portfolio. Students design for all Brind School productions. Students frequently work alongside faculty and guest professional artists on productions. Students completing this program are prepared to enter the theater industry or to pursue further studies at the graduate level. Graduates have gone on to work professionally in Philadelphia and New York, as well as regionally and internationally.
Theater Design & Technology graduates:
- will effectively analyze scripts and source material, apply research, and make specific choices about world building that serve both the needs of the script and the artist’s imaginative impulse.
- will be able to develop their ideas into realized theater projects through collaboration, exploration, and communication, while demonstrating the skills to effectively convey their vision to their collaborators.
- will demonstrate practical skills, exhibit stagecraft and possess the technical experience to support their own design decisions.
- will demonstrate an awareness of how their creative voices relate to current and historical design paradigms and practices.
* At this level, Theater Design & Technology craft courses include Costume Construction, Props for Theater & Film, Theater Drafting, Theatrical Modelmaking, Theater Rigging, Scenic Painting and more.
** At this level, Theater Design courses include Set, Lighting, Sound, Costume, Projection or Technical Design.
*** Advanced Theater Design courses include Set, Lighting, Sound or Costume Design, Projection or Technical Direction.
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The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts is committed to developing the individual artistic voice of each student: You will develop both skills and an expanded point of view. Further, you’ll graduate a fearless, innovative and adaptable creator, ready to engage the medium and the world with a strong sense of yourself as a citizen artist.
The Brind School is tailored for those who want to head to Broadway and those who are intent on challenging the status quo. Our faculty includes 60 instructors, the majority of which are current theater professionals. Additionally, alumni regularly return to UArts as educators and hold central positions in Philadelphia’s theater culture, extending your creative community far beyond campus.
We celebrate acting instruction as the focal point of training in both the Acting and Musical Theater programs, and emphasize vocal and physical training as principal support areas. Our Theater Design and Technology and Directing, Playwriting and Production programs also focus on technique supported by extended collaborative learning opportunities in production. Opportunities abound for master classes, guest speakers, internships and apprenticeships with both nationally prominent guest artists and Philadelphia’s many professional companies.
Through its dozens of performances each year–including the annual Polyphone Festival of New and Emerging Musicals–the Brind School is both a school and a producing company. We present an annual season of work which includes projects led by students, faculty and renowned guest artists from the national and local theater scenes. Auditions are open to all Brind School students.
Venues and Learning and Practice Spaces
The Brind School is primarily located in the Terra Building at 211 S. Broad St. Spaces include seminar rooms and classrooms, as well as studios for individual voice, speech, dance, movement and acting instruction.
We also utilize five public performance venues.
- ArtsBank Theater: 230 seats
- Laurie Beechman Cabaret Theater: 60 seats
- Caplan Recital Hall: 200 seats
- Caplan Studio Theater: 90 seats
- Levitt Auditorium: 700 seats
A production shop, a costume shop, a design studio, a lighting lab, areas for both property and costume stock, and a fully equipped video editing studio round out the comprehensive theater experience Brind provides.
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