The Val A. Browning Center, home to Weber State University’s department of performing arts, is also home to three theaters and additional recital halls. These halls host a vast assortment of fully realized student and professional productions, which require not only the artists, but also a devoted crew to make certain all the technical aspects of a show run smoothly.
Many of the shows at WSU are scheduled nearly a year in advance in order to make certain all pre-show requirements can be communicated to and carried out by the backstage crews that work the shows.
Students have the opportunity to work these shows and gain hands-on knowledge as part of the technical theater degree offered at WSU. Austin Hull, a student studying technical theater, holds the position of stage operations supervisor at the Browning Center. His job is to coordinate everything happening backstage, which he said can become a challenge when several shows are running in different theaters simultaneously.
“But it’s worth it,” he said.
Hull said he believes the students’ active participation in productions creates a better environment for learning than is afforded to students at many other schools.
“Touching a light and using all the parts and knowing what it is is better than just reading a diagram,” he said. “It’s better when you leave Weber and go out into the real world, because you’ve already done what you want to do.”
William Peterson, also a student at WSU, works at the Browning Center as a stage technician. He said WSU can create these opportunities because it has the unique advantage of being “big enough to do a lot of good shows, but small enough to get a lot of hands-on experience.”
As faculty member and production manager Kirsten “Fluffy” Blake put it, “You need to live it. You need to breathe it. You need to experience it to fully to grasp the nuance of what you are learning. . . . It’s a very safe environment for anyone and everyone that wants to participate. One of the greatest aspects of my life are the family and friendships I have created working in theater.”