My Trek Through Theater Tech (and down to Pomona)

Hi y’all! My name is Hannah and I’m going to be writing some blog posts this summer, although I just graduated from Mudd two months ago! I previously wrote some blogs two years ago, when I worked on campus and gave admissions tours over the summer, and now I’m back (metaphorically, since I’m technically still at home) working as a senior intern for the summer. You can check out two of the blogs I wrote two years ago Top 10 Reasons The Muddraker is the Best Club on Campus [not clickbait] and Food, Friends, and Foliage: My Summer in Admissions!

A picture of Hannah

Hannah Larson, HMC ’20

Last time I blogged, I had only recently decided to double major, adding Theater to my MCB (mathematical and computational biology) major. Since then, I’ve taken lots of really great theater classes, participated in plays, seen plays, gotten a job in the theater, written a thesis, and made some great friends along the way. 

Although adding the Theater major definitely meant that I had a busier schedule than I would have had otherwise, I’m really glad that I was able to be involved in the Theater Department in lots of different ways!

Some of my favorite classes I took over the last four years were classes that focused on different aspects of theater technology (lighting, projections, and sound technology!). In both of these classes, we learned about both design and technical aspects of these theatrical elements and we got to do a combination of critiquing professional shows and experimenting with our own projects. 

Left: A play program rests against a laptop open to a partially written essay. Right: A dress mannequin sits in an empty room. On the left side of the floor is pink lighting, the right side of the floor is green, and on the back wall is a circle with images of green leaves.

Left: A program from Pomona’s production of Crumbs from the Table of Joy. I wrote a review of the production’s lighting for class.
Right: In Lighting and Projections Technology, we used a small studio space to learn about designing and programming lights. This is from an interpretation of Jack and the Beanstalk that my group did for our final project.

In addition to taking some great classes, I worked as part of the tech crew for some of Pomona’s plays. This is required for all theater majors, but it’s also a really fun way to work on a show and get backstage experience! This fall, I even got to help out as an assistant lighting designer for our musical (Pippin), which was definitely a lot of work, but also a great way for me to learn more about the design process!

Left: The left side of the photo shows a few actors sitting in a pool of water on stage during rehearsal. The right side of the photo is a closeup of a computer showing a program for theater sound. Right: Actors rehearse on stage in the background of the photo. In the foreground is a desk with headphones and notes on the musical.

Left: A photo taken from the sound booth where I was running the sound for Metamorphoses, a play Pomona put on during my Junior year.
Right: This photo was taken during a rehearsal for Pippin, as I was taking notes to implement into our lighting design.

This year, I got to do two things that I’d been looking forward to for the last few years! I got a job on the Theater Department’s Electrics Crew and I wrote one of my theses on lighting technology! The Electrics Crew is a group of really kind and awesome people who come into the theatre a few times a week to work on different projects related to the lighting, sound, and projections equipment in the theatre. The Electrics Crew works with Janelle Asti, Pomona’s master electrician/sound engineer, one of the coolest people I met in college, and one of the people who inspired me to become a theater major! 

Left: The left side of the photo displays racks of lights hanging in storage while the right side of the photo is a view of the tops of chairs in the audience of the theatre. Right: Photo shows the back of a blue shirt with the word “Sparkies” at the top and different images of theater light bulbs.

Left: The view from the balcony of Pomona’s Seaver Theatre, where we store a lot of the lighting equipment.
Right: My work shirt has images of different types of lamps and says “Sparkies”, which is what the Electrics Crew calls itself.

One of the other things I got to work on this year with the Theater Department was my Senior Thesis. Theater majors typically choose to do a thesis that is split between a project and a paper and, if you’re interested in acting or theater design, you can choose to work on one of Pomona’s four main shows for your project. Because I’ve always been more interested in technical theater, I focused my paper on the history of theatrical lighting technologies and then spent the spring semester running experiments and recreating some of the technology. I chose this project because it built on a lot of things that I had learned in previous classes and allowed me to learn more about reasons behind different technologies. Also, I got to look at a lot of different lightbulbs and candles and even make my own arc lamp!

Right: Two rods are touching, producing a bright white flame in front of a lamp. Left: A bound thesis faces up sitting on top of a laptop.

Right: I used this photo in my thesis! It shows a close up of the arc lamp that I built.
Left: This is my completed, printed, and bound thesis including both historical and experimental analysis!

One of my favorite parts about being a theater major was the abundance of unexpected experiences I got to enjoy! I took classes I never would have thought about taking otherwise (including Corporeal Mime, which turned out to be awesome), read amazing plays I’d never heard of before, and met so many thoughtful and interesting people I might not have met otherwise.