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Get Schooled: WM Theatre Majors Earn Designer Credits

When the cast and crew take a final bow after the last showing of “Pippin” at the College of William & Mary, Taylor Nelms and Ruth Hedberg will have two professional credits to add to their resumes.

The two seniors – Hedberg will graduate this winter – had the unique opportunity to work alongside their professors as the only two student designers for the production, which opens at 8 tonight in Phi Beta Kappa Hall.

Nelms estimated he’s devoted more than 300 hours of work (“every non-class hour”) to the production’s lighting design, while Hedberg said she’s lived in PBK the past two weeks working to perfect the make-up for all 23 cast members. While they’re sacrificing sleep, exercise and healthy eating habits, both are gaining class credit and more importantly, professional experiences and contacts that will be invaluable when they enter the workforce.

Undergraduate students don’t typically get the opportunity to design a show, according to Amy Brabrand, promotions and box office manager for W&M Theatre, Speech and Dance. Nelms and Hedberg were chosen because they had proven in their four short years at the college that they can handle the tasks, both creatively and responsibly.

They also carved out their niches early in their college careers. Hedberg, a Northumberland County native, started volunteering in the costume shop during the second semester of her freshman year, and it became a home away from the dorm. Many of her childhood experiences prepared her perfectly to fall in love with costuming: she has been sewing since she was 6, when she created dresses for her dolls, and her family had spent time doing Revolutionary War reenactments.

Nelms, of Centreville, had always enjoyed singing and acting, but found a love for being behind the scenes during his senior year of high school. He thought his performing days were over when he started at W&M, but soon missed being involved. He reached out to the technical theater crew and found himself learning the particulars of lighting, which is a perfect blend of his double majors in theatre and computer science. “It was feeling the pulse of a show that appealed to me,” Nelms said.

Cast members of “Pippin” in costume. Senior Ruth Hedberg led make-up and hair design for the show.

Working on a musical is a big commitment for anyone, but for full-time students, it requires serious prioritizing. Both students were loath to admit their classwork has suffered as they’ve devoted their waking hours to thinking about the show.

“Everything takes a bit of a hit,” Hedberg said. “It’s hard, because I can’t drop any of the balls, except sanity and health.”

“I would love to say I’ve been able to juggle everything,” Nelms said. “Usually class takes precedence, but this is going in my portfolio.”

I can relate. As a newspaper editor at my college, I just decided that work came first. My paper on symbolism in Palestinian and Israeli literature was going to be okay, but not as good as my article about the opening of the Ferguson Center for the Arts. One was going in my portfolio of clips for job interviews; the other was going in a drawer.

The same is true for Nelms and Hedberg. They’re doing the actual work they hope to do as graduates, taking their designs from initial concepts to full realizations of tone and mood. Getting an A on a paper is great. Seeing your lighting design and make-up transport an audience member to Ancient Rome? That’s pure joy.

They’re mindful of the world they’ll be entering when they graduate. They’ll probably work a few years before deciding whether to pursue master’s degrees, and Hedberg has already secured a full-time job in the costume shop at Busch Gardens for the spring.

They’ll leave W&M not only with professional-level experience, but with connections. “If I ever need a costume designer, I’m calling you,” Nelms told Hedberg, who responded, “Same with you!”

“Pippin” will be performed at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, then at 8 p.m. Nov. 15, 16 and 17. A final matinee will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 18. Find ticket information here.

Kaine, Allen Face the Students

Before Election Day, Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen agreed to answer several questions about a range of issues on video for Face the Students.

Face the Students is an initiative from Northern Virginia teacher Dave O’Mara to teach students how to evaluate candidates based on their stances on a range of issues. The aim is to show students that they should consider multiple factors when they cast ballots to ensure they choose the candidate most aligned with their views.

Participating classes submitted five questions to the candidates, including questions about defense spending, the welfare system, public school funding, the Affordable Care Act and illegal immigrants receiving government help.

On Monday, Jamestown High teacher Richard Ambler’s students watched the video responses and used a post-video survey to evaluate which candidate had the best answers. After each question, they paused and considered who they agreed with before moving onto the next question. This encouraged the students to really consider their answers, rather than how they came off in the videos.

Ultimately, Ambler’s class felt Allen answered three questions – focused on the economy, health care and immigration – better than Kaine, making him their winner. As we now know, Virginians sided with Kaine, who will serve as the state’s next senator. Still, the students felt the exercise was valuable and should be used in future elections.

WCA Senior Commended in National Merit Program

Senior John Sawin, left, is a Commended Scholar in the National Merit program.

Williamsburg Christian Academy Senior John Sawin has been named a commended student in the 2013 National Merit Scholarship program.

Commended students place among the top five percent of the more than 1.5 million who took the 2011 PSAT.

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Posted by on November 9, 2012. Filed under Get Schooled. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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