Where can students go to learn lighting, costume and prop design – all in one setting? Why, Matthews Playhouse, of course.
Next month, the nonprofit community theater will launch its first yearlong technical theater training program for students in sixth to 12th grades. The curriculum will focus on the various types of behind-the-scenes theater work and give students firsthand experience working in these areas.
Evan Kinsley, the Playhouse’s technical director and production coordinator, will lead the program and teach the classes. Kinsley earned a bachelor’s of arts in theater at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. During his time at the school, he was exposed to the different areas of technical theater, becoming somewhat of a “jack of all trades.”
Now, after several years of holding a professional leadership position at the Playhouse, he hopes to pass his knowledge on to the future generation.
“I’m a big fan of education,” Kinsley said. “I was a theater education major when I was at UNCC for two-and-a-half years. In the three years that I’ve been (at Matthews Playhouse) I’ve seen a lot of kids come through without any formal training or (classes). Being able to work with them and show them things, seeing how those young people work, is very exciting.”
The idea to start a technical theater training program was born through conversations Kinsley had with different people in the Matthews Playhouse community about the number of students interested in the technical side of theater.
“The Playhouse offers classes all year long for musical theater and acting, but there’s nothing geared toward the technical side,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to give those students the opportunity to work in that area … to give those students experience?”
The classes will begin Sept. 13, and will run every Tuesday through April, with holiday breaks around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kinsley will be the primary teacher, but he plans to bring in several different designers and technicians as guest instructors so the students get a better understanding of the different fields.
Throughout the course, students will keep a portfolio of the projects they work on, which will document all of their work and show their progress. They’ll have the opportunity to work hands on with equipment, as well as in the theater. Students also may get the chance to work on a Matthews Playhouse production during the year, depending on the amount of skill they demonstrate.
“I really push hands-on activity,” Kinsley said. “Having that experience is the only way to really learn theater.”
Kinsley said the most challenging aspect of teaching the class will likely be that he’ll be working with students from a wide variety of backgrounds.
“Because you’re pulling students from all over, the biggest challenge is going to be that technical theater programs vary school by school, both with the type of equipment used and the types of plays,” he said. “Structuring (the class) with extremely varied levels of experience and exposure, structuring the curriculum where all (the students) are learning at different paces simultaneously, will be a challenge.”
Nonetheless, he’s thrilled to be a part of the program.
“I’m excited to be offering this program, and I hope it takes off,” he said. “Because from what I’ve seen, there’s not a lot of support for technical programs in our area, so we’re happy to be able to offer a resource for people in the area.”
For more information, call 704-846-8343.