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D&P Students, Dean Tilford, and Chancellor Mauceri

Starting a New Tradition at NCSA

By Jennifer Collins

CHICAGO -- Traditions are a cornerstone in an educational institution, giving it a richer texture to build the culture while binding students and alumni through collective experiences. For a school less than half a century old, like the North Carolina School of the Arts, traditions are still taking shape.

A recent trip to Chicago provided the kind of inspirational experience that six School of Design and Production students will never forget.

School of Design and Production Dean Joseph P. Tilford took the students to Chicago, where he is well-known for his designs in the theatre. The visit was timed to coincide with an appearance by NCSA Chancellor John Mauceri at the Lyric Opera, where he was conducting Romeo and Juliet.

The Chicago trip is a tradition Tilford hopes to continue. “The experience was astonishing,” Tilford said. “The looks on (the students’) faces made me know we have to do this again.”

For a jam-packed 48 hours, design students Matt Covell, Hannah Crowell, Sam Kitchel, Stephanie Maus, Jayme Mellema and Matthew Smart got the kind of education you can’t receive in a classroom.

“As a designer, we use our life experiences, the images that we store through the moments of our day-to-day interaction with the world in order to tell a story on the stage,” Crowell said. “Going to Chicago was a great opportunity to record more of these images.”
The mix of lighting, costume and scenic design students from undergraduate and graduate levels was treated to a packed itinerary with each element specifically chosen to ignite their creative thinking. The students visited the famous Art Institute of Chicago, attended a performance of Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theatre, and enjoyed a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Lyric Opera.

“Dinner with Chancellor Mauceri was fascinating because of the wealth of knowledge that he had and was willing to share with us,” Kitchel said.

Taking time away from their hectic schedules at NCSA was also a much appreciated opportunity for the students.

“Here at NCSA, we’re so busy creating theatre that we forget to go see theatre – which is part of how we got into this business to begin with, Mellema said. “It was an excellent reminder that we need to take that time to see some theatre, both for the sake of enjoyment and its ability to recharge the artistic battery.”

Dean Tilford views these experiences as chances to shape students for the rest of their lives. They are able to experience the world that will be theirs someday in the venues they tour and the productions they see. Tilford said that such experiences as essential to student development – a concept that is recognized and appreciated by the students themselves in reflection of their whirlwind 48 hours in Chicago.

“It was a trip that will influence my design aesthetic for the rest of my life,” Smart said. “It is a program that must be continued in the future.”

Covell added: “To give students a unique experience like this is vital to creating well rounded and talented designers.”

Sounds like the beginning of a new tradition at NCSA.