Our concentration in design and technology combines challenging courses and the opportunities to perform vital roles in both our main stage season and our student produced Underground Theatre. Students work closely with theatre professionals and learn the fundamental skills necessary to be successful in the entertainment business, and they are given the opportunity to take leadership roles on productions and throughout the department.
Our willingness to lean on students to design and manage production aspects of our shows early in their college careers results in them gaining valuable experience and resume credits throughout their four years. Our faculty often act as assistant designers to our students to help bolster them as they tackle their first projects.
Our faculty members help students find professional opportunities while they are in college and actively promote them for prime internships, competitive graduate degree programs, and professional opportunities after they graduate.
While the production entertainment field has grown in churches, theme parks, cruise ships, and resorts, the number of young technicians entering the field has continued to decrease. Design and technology graduates are in high demand, and students that demonstrate dependability, strong work ethics, and the ability to work well with others will have numerous opportunities available to them.
Some students come to us planning to focus on one area while others choose to study several areas. We encourage personal growth and professional exploration. We will help to shape a student's coursework and production experiences to help them gain the skills and experience to be successful in their chosen fields.
The new Catalyst program is designed to provide opportunities for experiential learning and interaction with mentors. It teaches working within a group and the ability to collaborate which are skills essential in the professional world. It culminates in a six-credit hour project your senior year that is a reflection of your current interests and professional aspirations.
Fields of Study
Set Design & Construction
Students who want to focus on Scenic Design will be assessed to determine their current skill level, and we will be begin their training to improve them from that level. Opportunities to assist the faculty designer, design elements of mainstage shows, design underground studio productions, and ultimately main stage set design opportunities will be offered based on the student's demonstrated initiative and the trust formed with the faculty. We believe in providing those opportunities early in a student's career if a successful outcome seems probable. Our design program leans heavily on computer-based 3D modeling and traditional scale model construction.
Students interested in construction will work closely with the Technical Director and Shop Foreman through the planning phases of shows and through the construction processes that lead to a successful season. Students will learn construction techniques and the ability to draw those into construction plans. With over 55 years of combined experience, our Shop Foreman and Technical Director demonstrate creative problem solving, professional expectations, and construction efficiency.
Lighting & Projection Design
Students will learn the skills necessary to design lights and projections in our 5 venues and gain the communication skills necessary to engage with directors and other designers in the collaborative process. Students also gain the artistic skills that make them well-rounded Lighting and Projection designers and the technical skills that make them marketable in the professional world. Our faculty Lighting Designer has worked on recent Broadway productions and offers students the opportunity to join him on professional projects. At Samford, design opportunities are available and based on the student's effort and initiative. Students will work with ETC Ion consoles while learning Vectorworks for design and Watchout 6 for projections.
Costume Design & Construction
Students will learn the process and skills necessary to bring costume designs from conceptualization to the stage. Our Faculty Costume Designer has over 25 years of experience designing and building productions for the stage. She offers students the opportunity to design elements of main stage shows early in their careers and works with students that exhibit the ability and dedication required to design an entire main stage production. She also runs a professional design and rental business that offers students the opportunity to gain professional credits while working on outside productions and events.
Students will gain the skills necessary to create original sound designs and to engineer in the live sound environment. Opportunities to design and engineer are available in our theatre and dance productions as well as with the Samford Opera and the Wright Center Concert Hall. Students will utilize QLab show software as well as work with a variety of digital and analog sound consoles. Students that show the ability to professionally handle a production's sound needs will be given many opportunities to do so.
Students will learn the management and organizational skills necessary to be successful as a stage manager. They will be given opportunities early in their careers to assist production stage managers, and students that show the ability to successfully handle the responsibilities of the position will get the opportunity to stage manage our main stage and underground productions. Our courses in Stage Management are currently being taught by an adjunct faculty with several years of experience in regional theatre and strong A.E.A. credentials.
Students interested in property design and coordination are offered opportunities very early in their college careers as we pair them with shows that fit their current abilities. As they gain additional skills, the students will be given opportunities to act as Prop Master on larger and more involved productions. Students focused on props will work closely with the Technical Director, Costume Designer, and Scene Shop Foreman to learn the broad skillset necessary to be successful as a props artisan.
Students who focus in scenic art will be paired with our Shop Foreman/Scenic Charge Artist. He has over 30 years of experience in theatre including over 20 years as the owner of a large scenery construction and rental business. Students will learn how to mix color, apply paint with a variety of scenic techniques, and create textures that improve the quality of our productions. Students interested in scenic art will be given every opportunity to contribute early in their careers and will be given advanced projects and responsibilities based on their performance.
Our Main Stage season produces six shows per year including musicals, theatre for youth, classical and contemporary drama, opera, and dance. In addition to the main stage, our students produce approximately five or six shows per year in the Underground Theatre. Students elect an Underground committee that takes submissions from student directors, and they select a season that runs parallel to our main stage. We also produce a 10-minute play festival in the fall, and a one-act festival in the spring. Design and technology students are also encouraged to work in the 2650 seat Wright Center Concert Hall on campus which serves as the home for the Alabama Ballet, Opera Birmingham, The Alabama Symphony Orchestra Pops Series, and many other production opportunities.
Internships and Career Opportunities
Design and technology students are often given internship opportunities with local theatre companies during the school year. Students are also encouraged to seek summer employment at professional theatres to build their resumes and contact network. Some recent job placements include:
The National Theatre (London) • The Prizery, Virginia • Flat Rock Playhouse, North Carolina • Barter Theatre, Virginia • Telsey & Co., New York • Lexington Children's Theatre, Kentucky • Charleston Stage • Orlando Shakespeare Festival • Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas • Dallas Children's Theatre • Nashville Repertory Theatre • Seattle Children's Theatre
The production design and technology job market is starved for young workers, and graduates find opportunities all over the country and even around the world. Some of the areas where our students have found career opportunities include professional theatres, theme parks, television and film studios, cruise ships, concert production, and special event production.
In addition to professional employment, students also have the option of pursuing a graduate degree at one of the many schools that offer a Masters of Fine Art. Technical assistantships at graduate schools typically offer a full tuition waiver and stipends upwards of $20,000 over the nine-month school year.
Over the past few years, 99% of School of the Arts undergraduate students were employed or pursuing continuing education within six months of graduation.
Samford University believes strongly in the benefit of study abroad, and a large majority of our students take advantage of this opportunity during their time here. Samford owns a study center in the Kensington area of London that is a great location for a mini-term or even a full semester. As a School of the Arts, we do a trip each summer that typically goes to England and another country, however, this year's trip is going to Spain and Portugal. Our students have taken a play to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland three times in the last eight years, and a Theatre for Youth group traveled to Indonesia this year to present children's theatre to young kids who had never seen a dramatic production.