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Theater Students Attend Conference in Vegas

Sara McGuire

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WEST HAVEN–I was asked recently by the Charger Bulletin to speak with two UNH students who are involved in the university’s emerging theater program, and who recently traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada for a conference on lighting, sound, and a plethora of other new technologies that are designed for the stage. Not only did Pete Orlowski and Matt Perreira experience life in the entertainment capital of the world, but they also learned a great deal that could truly benefit the future of the program.

Sara McGuire: How did you become involved in UNH’s theater program?

Pete Orlowski: I became involved because, at the start of my sophomore year, Bob Boles sent out an e-mail asking for anyone who wanted to be involved. So, I sent an email back and I’ve been more and more involved ever since.

Matt Perreira: I came to the university as a freshman and just decided to give it a try and got instantly hooked.

SM: What is your primary role in the theater program?

PO: I own the theater: carpentry, electrical, projections; stuff like that.

MP: I started as “assistant director” and have done everything from sound, lighting, rigging, and set construction.  My current role is head electrician and lighting designer.

SM: Have you learned a lot from your experiences in the technical aspect of theater?

MP: Yes, I believe I have. It is amazing how much theater can be related to life.

PO: I suppose I learned a little bit in addition to what I’ve already known, but not too much more. It’s just been a decent experience for having fun and something to do a lot of the time.

SM: Have you learned anything new that you didn’t know prior to attending UNH?

MP: I never really did any tech work in the theater before UNH. Now, I am one of the only people left from the original crew.

PO: I learned that theater is actually kind of fun.

SM: How has what you’ve learned helped you in other areas besides theater?

MP: It has helped me with problem solving. If you know anyone in UNH Theater, they can tell you we do a lot of improvising. We have to makeshift a lot but it always works out great. I have also learned how to carry myself in a business-professional way. I have done some really important things with the theater, like lunch and a presentation to the Board of Governors.

PO: I learned how to do sound, but not through theater; through Max and Jon [two UNH students who have been involved with the sound for (primarily) UNH events, but also theater].

SM: How did you learn about the trip to Las Vegas?

MP: Our Technical Director Bryan Steele worked for a company that was going to be there. He mentioned that it was something that we should go to last year. It took a year of planning but we finally made it.

PO: Word-of-mouth from Matt.

SM: What was the purpose (or significance) of the trip?

PO: The purpose was to go to the largest theatrical convention in the United States to learn about everything from lighting, to sound, to rigging, electrical and everything of the sort that’s new and upcoming in our age.

MP: There were a few reasons for going to Vegas. One was a “fact-finding mission” since the theater is looking to upgrade, we were looking at the new technology that was out there. The second was for networking. We made a lot of great contacts that I will definitely use; good potential jobs.

SM: What did you see in Las Vegas that could be beneficial to the theater program at UNH?

PO: You can always use more fog machines. No, when we went out there we actually looked around for things that could be used in our theater program, like actually having a working inter-com/clear-com set so the backstage and up in the booth can talk to each other without the cheap RadioShack radios we use right now; actual rigging that would enable us to hang curtains, different set pieces and things like that around the space, actual lighting boards instead of our lighting board that only half-works right now. Just found a lot of different things out there that would be useful.

MP: The list is endless. There was a joke between Peter, Bob and myself: whenever anyone asked what we think we could use at our school we all said EVERYTHING.

SM: What did you learn at the convention (i.e. New techniques)?

MP: There were so many that it is hard to decide. I think that my favorite was from a company called Sea Changer. They have a light that worked off microwaves. There were no light bulbs. There were fog machines and LED lights everywhere.

PO: I learned that Brian Steele believes there’s some algorithm inside slot machines that, if you slowly bet less and less, it believes that you’re losing interest so then it says that it’s going to win soon so you should start betting high. Actually, I really learned that there are new accessories for every type of theatrical equipment out there. From accessories that make a stationary light look like it’s moving water to accessories that allow a computer projector to superimpose images right onto a person.

SM: Which of these new techniques would you like to see used in the theater?

PO: ‘New techniques’ is kind of hard to answer considering a lot of it was more or less technology than techniques, and we felt that we strongly need the technology upgrades, and once you actually have those, you can kind of work on everything else from there.

MP: Honestly at this point I would like the theater to just get lights and a proper rigging system for the curtains and lights. It would be really great to have all these technologies, but we have nothing, so I would like to see something before all the fancy stuff.

SM: Do you feel that, by attending the convention, you have learned some key technical elements and skills that will benefit you, once you’ve graduated from UNH, in your professional life?

MP: Absolutely. I sat down with people from different companies and went through their new products. I think that I have gained skills and ideas that I will use in my own shows.

PO: While we were at the convention, we actually kind of ran across the issue that our majors, both mine and Matt’s, in Arson Investigation are kind of completely different than the arts and theatrical thing. We did find that there is a decent amount of people out there who look for people to work in theater settings for fire safety, planning, and things like that. You can actually form a lot of contacts just by working through theater program stuff: still be involved in the theater and actually work along the lines of fire safety.

SM: Did you meet anyone significant or make any connections at the convention (in other words, did you take part in networking) that could help you by not only providing you with access to new technical methods, but also careers?

PO: The cool thing about the way LDI worked was when you registered for it, you put all of your information in their computer and it gave you a badge that you used. On the badge itself, it had a digital code that had all of your information. So, as you went around the various booths, a lot of them would say ‘Can I scan your badge?’ Pretty much we just let whoever wanted to do it, and then I’ve already gotten a call from someone at Wybron, asking if I had questions and if we did anything. So connections have been made since I went to Vegas.

MP: Absolutely. I walked out with over thirty business cards from people that I talked to in the industry. It opened a lot of doors for me when I get out of here. I already had a few offers.

SM: What did you personally take out of the trip?

MP: I have to say that I personally used the trip as a networking opportunity. I took away many contacts and state of the art skills and techniques that are out there and available now.

PO: I actually got to see a side of the country that I’ve never seen before. I’ve
never been off the East coast. But, I got to learn a decent amount about different types of lighting and what’s available for different types of stuff.

SM: What do you think the others that went took out of the trip?

MP: I think Pete took the same out of it that I did.  I think Pete may be a little more interested in sound but I think we both learned equally as much.

SM: What would you say to any readers who may be interested in UNH Theater, be it acting or becoming involved in tech/crew?

PO: Just show up; give it a try. It’s more fun than you think it would be. We seem to make it sound stressful with the way that it is because it does get stressful once in a while. But, we kind of try to make the most fun we can out of it. So if you have an interest in it, you should just get involved.

MP: DO IT. We are a small family that pulls off some pretty amazing shows. If you are interested in any aspect of theater, come and join in on the fun. If you have any questions about tech or theater in general feel free to contact me anytime.

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Theater Students Attend Conference in Vegas