Otterbein University Theatre emphasizes learning through doing. Our students are extensively involved in the lighting design and technical production of our five mainstage productions, as well as our student productions including: cabarets, classroom projects, drag shows, and the student created and produced “Festival.”
In the Classroom
Students begin as freshmen with "Sound and Lighting for the Stage," a technology-centered course that teaches the proper and safe utility of stage lighting fixtures, control, and power. The class goes beyond the traditional introductory material to train students in the technical and management skills necessary to act as a Master Electrician.
In their sophomore year lighting students enter the design world through our "Lighting Design" course. Students are encouraged to think as artists and to see light in a new way, applying their newly-developed technology skills to support the aesthetics of theatre productions. Students are trained in both the art and craft of design, utilizing industry-standard software such as Vectorworks and LightWright to efficiently create, implement, and manage designs within a professional environment.
Advanced students take individualized classes to explore the skill sets necessary to gain employment and make a living in theatrical lighting including "Advanced Design," working as an assistant designer, and classes delving into topics such as unions, contracts, taxes, networking, and resume/portfolio development.
The capstone to the Otterbein lighting design education is a full-semester internship. Internships are required for BFA students and are an option for BA students. Our interns are placed in professional theatres across the country, learning and gaining real-world experience from seasoned professionals. The internship is a gateway from the educational world to the professional world.
Our lighting coursework emphasizes current professional standards and practices. Classroom examples are drawn from both current departmental and professional productions, and faculty share the minutia of professional life through a blog tracking the real-time development of professional productions in major theatres.
In Production Work
Lighting students begin in production assignments as electricians: hanging, focusing, programming, and running the lighting for our productions. Promising students are quickly elevated to leadership roles such as Assistant Master Electrician and Master Electrician where they lead the planning, management, and execution of the light plots. They also manage budgets, schedules, and student crews to accomplish their work in a timely, economically sound, and safe manner.
Design-oriented students move from this technical foundation into Assistant Lighting Design positions. Advanced students may be assigned to design lighting for department productions. These student designers work under the close mentorship of design faculty to create the lighting for a production from initial production meetings through opening night. Student designers have described their hands-on design work at Otterbein as critical moments in their design education. These opportunities create polished portfolio pieces that help students stand out as they interview for future study and employment.
In all production work, Otterbein emphasizes professionalism, mutual respect, self-motivation, self-discipline, and safety.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty Lighting Designer T.J. Gerckens is an award-winning professional lighting designer and educator. He has designed on and off Broadway, in major regional theatres across America, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and internationally in London, Australia, and at the LaScala Opera House in Milan, Italy. He holds a BFA from Otterbein University, an MFA from Boston University (the terminal degree in theatrical lighting), and is a proud member of USA Local 829, the union representing theatrical designers and scenic artists. Teaching is one of his first loves, and he enjoys bringing his professional experience to his students and nurturing their growth as technicians, artists, and citizens.
Doc Davis, Lighting and Sound Supervisor, holds an MFA in Theatre Technology and brings several years of professional theatre experience to the staff. Doc is dedicated to the success and growth of his students through both classroom teaching and practical experience.