The WVU Graduate Council approved the new major this spring and it will be available to students beginning in the fall of 2015.
The School of Theatre and Dance currently has an MFA program that includes majors in Acting, Lighting Design & Technology, Scene Design & Technology, and Costume Design & Technology. The MFA in Technical Direction will be the fifth major in the MFA program, which is accredited by the National Association of the Schools of Theatre (NAST).
“We are pleased to offer this new program that will be overseen by School of Theatre and Dance Technical Director and Production Manager Steven Neuenschwander,” said College of Creative Arts Dean Paul Kreider. “This program will allow students to train with Professor Neuenschwander, who is the only Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP) Certified Theatrical Rigger in the state of West Virginia. We are confident in the superior quality of training students will receive from this program.”
Neuenschwander, who has been at WVU since 2009, received his MFA in Technical Design and Production from the Yale School of Drama. While attending Yale, he worked for ShowMotion Inc., a commercial scene shop, building productions for Broadway and national tours. He has also served as an independent contractor. He is currently co-chair of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Technical Production Commission project for Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Standards. Prior to joining WVU, he worked for Sunbelt Scenic Studios, an events and themed design company, where he served as senior project administrator.
According to Neuenschwander, the new MFA is an intense three-year course of study that gives students professional preparation in all aspects of theater production, including set design, lighting design, production planning, automation, entertainment rigging, theatre health and safety and AutoCAD, as well as use of computer applications to support these functions.
“We are excited to be adding Technical Direction to our successful existing MFA program in Design and Technology,” Neuenschwander said. “We now have the only MFA program in Technical Direction in the state of West Virginia and we have put together a tremendous curriculum and outstanding faculty to provide an elite hands-on training opportunity.”
The course of study covers the implementation of different technical and production practices, including planning, management, documentation, and the use of materials, tools, equipment and construction techniques, as well as theater history and stage design.
As part of their hands-on training, students will complete five to six major theater production assignments in conjunction with the School of Theatre and Dance’s fully staged theatrical productions. These assignments will provide them with hands-on experience working in professionally equivalent positions such as master carpenter, assistant technical director, technical director or production manager.
In their final year, students will complete a research thesis or practical performance project, documenting their participation in a project as the technical director.
“There is a high demand for technical directors throughout the entertainment industry, in both the national and regional theater markets and in concerts, film, corporate venues and academic institutions,” Neuenschwander said.
“As the industry has changed, the specialized training needed for this position has increased. Our new program will train technical directors in a quality graduate program that already has a highly established national reputation.
“Nationally, only a handful of universities are capable of offering such a degree and WVU is one of them.”
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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