Statement on teaching and advising for Lucas Granholm
Teaching students how to create and implement theatrical designs is a process that requires the students to trust their instructor’s guidance and for the students to trust their own creative eye. Because of this, I firmly believe that the students and their ideas come first. In the design studio, students should be challenged in an environment that is free from negative criticism to foster greater creative growth. Students' creativity should be nurtured throughout the process, and not be judged strictly on the end product. Student designers should feel as if their ideas and work have merit beyond the classroom and reach into various aspects of their career as an artist. I believe students must develop a strong, disciplined eye, and learn to look objectively at their work in a questioning manner such as, “what am I trying to say?” and “what else is needed to finish?” This in turn helps students become objective and disciplined designers, I focus on three hallmarks: Concept - to view one’s work through the eyes of the playwright/director, Artistry - to think creatively and objectively to solve the design problem at hand, and Craftsmanship - to work within the skill sets given to a young designer and to apply them appropriately.
Concept -I believe a student's creative work begins and ends with a concept. I often stress to students, “a concept is a lens from which one views the world they are creating”. This is a crucial fact when designing a production because all ideas derive from this concept. If a student's choices do not adhere to the directorial or authorial concept they are trying to create or support, the whole project falls apart.
Artistry - Often when working in a theatrical environment we are asked to provide solutions to problems that arise in a script. Students must think creatively to solve these problems. My teaching facilitates ways in which students can ask questions, be creative, and be generally curious about the matter at hand. Often the answer students are looking for requires them to bend the material here, fold it there, quietly contemplate, or simply discuss in an environment where ideas are traded amongst one another to find the solution to the problem at hand. I accomplish this through the use of in class studio days wherein students are free to explore and contemplate on their ideas.
Craftsmanship - Learning to be a theatrical designer requires mastery of a large variety of tools and equipment. This mastery not only includes the use of tools/equipment, but also how to safely utilize and handle them. While teaching how to implement designs, I stress the need for the respect and the patience required to master this artform. My lectures often include demonstrations that start at a rudimentary level wherein students can master the basic techniques and then build upon them.
My coursework is split between core fundamental classes and a rotating variety of elective courses. Regardless of the course, I emphasize the holistic idea that all design elements feed into one another within a production. I also often try to include my core area of expertise - Lighting Design, in some form or another into my courses. For the courses I teach yearly, I often change and update the material to fit the needs of the students in that particular class. Subject matter for one group of students may not excite another. I find that updating the material to fit the needs and interests of a student cohort helps to create a much more engaged classroom, and the students grow a deeper appreciation for the artform.
TH 1301 Fundamentals of Design: Each discipline faculty teaches different fundamental courses required for both the Theatre Arts major or minor at UMN Morris. These courses offer broad study of various theatrical topics. Fundamentals of Design offers students the opportunity to think visually beyond the script. This course invites students to use different artistic mediums, express their ideas through visual research, and to develop the communication skills to discuss their artistic intentions.
TH 2301 Stagecraft: This course offers students the opportunity to learn how to implement their ideas into reality. Building upon the artistry and conceptual skills developed through the study of materials, tools, and processes in the theatrical arts. One practical example of this would be how to read construction documents developed by the designer.
Elective Courses: While the core fundamentals of my courses are taught yearly, I teach a set of elective courses on a rotating basis. These courses include: TH 2113 Costume Design, TH 2114 Sound Design, TH 3006 Fantasy Clothing and Puppetry, TH 3007 Properties Design and Construction, TH 3001 Theatrical Scene Painting, TH 3301 Stage Lighting, TH 3303 Computer Assisted Drawing, TH 3307 Artistic Portfolio, TH 3308 Advanced Lighting Design, and TH 3309 Scenic Design. While these courses are offered on a rotating basis, there are times that these courses are offered out of sequence depending upon the interests and needs of the current student cohort. While I teach a wide array of design courses, I stress how each of these individual elements relate and interact with each other during the production process.
Lighting Design: Lighting Design at its core has been around for hundreds of years; the basic idea of being able to see the action onstage is something that has been necessary since actors stepped foot on the stage. However, Lighting Design and how we see and use it today is a relatively new artform. Theatrical Lighting Designers are now able to design and implement a large variety of highly complex and networked LED systems and can help to elevate a theatrical performance. While new technical innovations in lighting technology aid in creating more exciting stage pictures, it is also important to remember the hallmarks of how lighting impacts the perception of a theatrical piece. Does the intensity of the light source reflect the emotional impact onstage? Do the colors used in the lighting instruments accurately depict the setting portrayed onstage?
Theatre design is an ever changing artform, and is becoming increasingly computerized. This is particularly true in Lighting Design and the advent of LED technology. Gone are the days where one would simply plug in a lighting fixture into an electrical outlet. Now the process requires specialized knowledge regarding data systems, power distribution, and computer programming. As a teacher and designer I am constantly trying to bridge the gap between technology and artistry in this artform, while still keeping a firm footing in both areas. To close this gap, I often utilize a mix of different approaches in the classroom such as utilizing a light lab, scale models, and the creation of TH 3308 Advanced Lighting Design, to train students on the finer points of lighting with industry standard technology.
Safety: Theatre design is inherently dangerous, and can often lead to short or long term injury if proper protocol is not met. Safety is a key point that I stress in my courses and it is my goal that students leave my courses with the knowledge to safely and successfully execute designs while utilizing complex rigging equipment as well as data and power systems.
Serving as an advisor is a great responsibility that I do not take lightly. I want to be students’ point of contact for guidance throughout their education, and for students to trust the guidance I give them. As many of my advisees are theatre arts majors. I am often working with them either in production or they are enrolled in one of my courses. Because of this, I am able to quickly reach out to the students and grow lasting connections beyond the classroom, creating a rapport that can grow into creative partnerships. I encourage students to look at other areas beyond theatre so they can further develop their creative eye.
Other Advising: Since 2020 I have served as the faculty advisor for Meiningens Student Theatre, a co-curricular club supported by the Theatre Arts Discipline. Advising this student organization involves working with the elected student leaders on how to create and implement workshops, conference trips, and full productions that best fit within the theatre discipline’s yearly schedule. Additionally, each year, I mentor four to eight students on various artistic projects that feed directly into the Theatre Arts discipline production’s. These projects include assisting my design work or mentoring a student leading a design element for themselves. While advising these students I make sure they produce work that is worthy to be presented within their artistic portfolios. Furthermore, I mentor students in preparation of their 3rd year portfolios, an academic benchmark required for the major. Working with students on their portfolios is a very interesting process, often because the students have cross discipline interests that feed into their artistic work. Working with students in this capacity affords me the opportunity to talk to them like working artists in their respective fields, which is a rewarding process.