Austin Community College’s Technical Theatre Training Program
Technical Theatre students at ACC’s Department of Drama
Much to the delight of Austin’s creative sector, the Austin Community College Drama Department is offering a new two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree to give students hands-on training in technical theatre.
Dr. Marcus McQuirter, Chair of the ACC Department of Drama, and Stephanie Dunbar, Assistant Department Chair and AAS Program Coordinator, had planned for the department to kick off this unique alternative for specialized training in 2020, but... due to Zoom and hands-on technical theatre being a somewhat awkward mix, the program rolled out gradually. “Finally!” beams McQuirter, “We are excited to be back in the classroom and to have the hands-on aspects of this new program in full swing for 2021, welcoming a new generation of future professional technicians and designers.”
Currently, two tracks of specialization are offered in the new degree program: Makeup Artistry & Costume Technology or Scenic Construction, Lighting & Media Technology. Austin producers will be thrilled to know that Jamie Rogers, ACC’s Production Management Specialist, is in the process of developing a third track in Stage Management & Production Management, which will be added to ACC’s AAS offerings in the next several years. Stella McGriffy, one of the students in the AAS program, says, “I like the degree because it’s straight to the point, giving students opportunities to learn and practice skills. I appreciate that.”
ACC also offers an option to obtain a certificate(s), for those looking to enhance their skills, but are not interested in pursuing a degree. Certificates are offered in the following areas: Costume Technology; Makeup Artistry; Scenic Construction; and Lighting & Media Technology. Stage and Production Management classes will be added to the certificate program as available. Whether pursuing a degree or not, “Students get a career head start with next-generation technology and hands-on training,” says Rachel Atkinson, who teaches on the ACC Technical Theatre faculty.
Dr. McQuirter adds, “The new AAS Degree in Technical Theatre will immerse the students in practical, project-based coursework and apprenticeships, priming them for immediate employment as professional stagehands, stage carpenters and electricians, lighting programmers, live media specialists, makeup artists, costume technicians and stage managers.”
As an active participant in Austin’s theatrical community beyond his professorial and departmental leadership duties at ACC, Dr. McQuirter knows how eager this city’s 85+ theatre companies are for skilled technicians and designers. Austin audiences will recognize McQuirter’s name from The VORTEX, where he recently co-directed one of the first back-in-person, outdoor productions of this year — the critically acclaimed Annie Jump & the Library of Heaven. Dr. McQuirter also serves on the Board of Directors of New Manifest Theatre Company. You can hear more about Dr. McQuirter and New Manifest on The New Manifest Podcast right now.