Ever dreamed of making it big behind the stage? Like working with your hands and solving problems? Want to apply your creativity to a production seen by hundreds – maybe even thousands?
Mt. Hood Community College will soon offer a degree that prepares students to work on theatre shows and similar productions. Classes for the new Associate of Applied Science in professional theatre technician begin this fall. The program will prepare students to work and specialize in a wide range of behind-the-scenes theatre operations, including scenery design and construction, lighting, sound, costume, makeup and stage management.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) recently approved MHCC’s two-year theatre tech degree (earnable over six semesters), making the school the only college in Oregon to offer an A.A.S. in theatre tech. The curriculum for the degree covers both applied skills, including communication, writing and math, and technical knowledge, such as makeup and costuming, scene design, CAD modeling, and lighting design. Each semester of the program, students will also work on at least one live theatre production at MHCC.
Program graduates can directly enter the workforce into positions like set designer, sound engineer, lighting technician, carpenter, stage manager, costume designer and hair/makeup artist. Graduates can also work on a range of production types, including live theatre, television and film, conferences and events, amusement and theme park attractions, casino and cruise ship shows, commercial shoots, and sporting events.
According to MHCC theatre instructor Daryl Harrison-Carson, the program is really for students who like working with their hands and who don’t mind operating behind the scenes, often out of the spotlight.
“It’s a very hands-on curriculum,” she said. “You definitely won’t be sitting behind a desk.”
Harrison-Carson uses the iceberg metaphor when discussing the amount of work that goes into each theatre performance.
“What you see on stage is really just a small part of it,” she said. “It’s everything underneath that is supporting that production, that structure – and those people behind the scenes are very much in demand.”
Students in the theatre tech program can pursue opportunities with program partners, among them the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The theatre tech curriculum prepares students to take the necessary testing to join the IATSE union. Students who do join IATSE can access health insurance and paid on-call jobs (and on-the-job training) wherever IATSE stagehands are employed in the region, including The Newmark Theatre, Nike, and the Oregon Convention Center.
Prerequisites for the theatre tech program include basic math, reading and writing skills.