From Prada to power tools: Stepping out of comfort zones in theater tech

By Liz Browning |

As I walked across campus in my red, Ralph Lauren rain boots to the auditorium for Theatre Technology class, I had no idea what was in store for me on that day.

I walked into “the shop” and was greeted by  three power drills sitting on the table.  As the typical girl who loves shopping and all things fashion, I hardly knew what a power drill looked like. Now, I was about to use one for the first time.

It may seem like fashion and power tools don’t go together, however, they’re related more than most realize. Tools are used to build the runway, the lighting, and other elements of a fashion show and, as an aspiring fashion show producer or creative director, I decided to take Theatre Technology this semester to gain some experience in set building and show production.

There are two components of the course, Tech 207 and Tech 177. In Tech 207, we learn about all the different types of tools and carpentry, and their application to the construction of the set for the upcoming theatre production. In Tech 177, we apply all the knowledge that we learn in 207 and build the set for the production.

The scenic design students of the Theatre Department create a blueprint of the set. We build the walls, shelves, and sometimes even the furniture, using tools of all kinds from the table saw to a screwdriver.

“I think that it is important for most college students to learn how to use tools and fix things because it’s so essential, yet it is a dying interest,” says professor Corry Britton.

power-sawWith about three weeks into the course so far, I feel like I have learned more about carpentry than I have learned about the upcoming trends for this Fall. On the first day of class, I had never even seen a hack saw in person and about a week later, I was using one to cut wood for the bookshelf we were building for the set.

I think the most intimidating tool is the table saw, because of  its sharp blade spiked up from the table that you move the wood through to cut. However, this particular table saw has a special technology that immediately slows down if your finger gets too close to the blade. So thankfully, it’s nearly impossible to loose any of your fingers. Knowing this made me feel more confident when I used it for the first time.

My fellow peers in Theatre Technology come from all different backgrounds when it comes to working with tools. Take Avenlee Gahagan, whose father worked in construction her whole life. For her, building things is second nature. Other students have experience with building sets through their Intro to Theatre class and there are the students like myself, who are using tools for the first time.

Dee Ros, a public history major, wants to explore her creative side and show that she can do more than just write papers in her final semester of college.

“I took this class because my work will be on display for weeks and multiple people will see it, unlike if I were to write a paper where the professor looks at it once, grades it, and forgets about it,” says  Ros.

I may not necessarily be the best at construction, but every day  I walk into the shop, I learn something new, overcome a fear, become more independent, and step further out of my comfort zone, which is what college is truly about.

I mean, who would have thought that the girl walking around campus wearing red, Ralph Lauren rain boots, would know how to use a power drill?

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