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Davis, California

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Master of Fine Arts theatre design candidates unveil lighting and scenic designs

Imagine if the iconic scene of Jack and Rose standing at the tip of the Titanic never happened. One of the most romantic scenes in movie history, re-created throughout the years in numerous parodies and romantic endeavors by love-struck couples. The scene would’ve never happened if the set designers of Titanic hadn’t flexed their creative fingers and made a seemingly impossible deed possible – that is, to recreate the Titanic in its entire splendor when it left on its doomed maiden journey.

Wednesday, eight MFA candidates and several undergraduate students hosted a showcase of work that they’ve been creating throughout the year. The showcase took place at the UC Davis Wright Hall Main Stage.

John Iacovelli, faculty advisor, discussed the different types of work that was showcased in the student exhibit.

“There are some videos of shows produced at UC Davis. Puppets from our puppet class to sketches, scale models and renderings,” he said.

Rose Anne Raphael, an MFA candidate in the two-year MFA program in scenic design, is one of the participants who will be presenting her work to the public.

“I’m showing models I created for three plays: A Streetcar Named Desire, Servant of Two Masters and Lysistrata. Also, I’m showing photographs of Come Hell and High Water, a show produced during Winter quarter on our Main Stage theater, for which I was the scenic designer,” Raphael said.

The idea for the showcase was inspired by California Institute of Arts and New York University’s similar exhibitions, where selected graduate and undergraduate students show their work to the public and get feedback for their projects.

According to Iacovelli, the showcase took nearly a year to plan with the help of three faculty advisors and seven to nine graduate students.

The theater design program at UC Davis covers design for many different types of performing platforms, such as dance and opera. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, graduates of the MFA program are very versatile designers who can adapt to any situation.

Iacovelli described UC Davis’ program as all encompassing.

“It is an interdisciplinary program where we train young professional designers in the areas of scenery costume and lighting design for theatre, film, dance and opera,” Iacovelli said.

Raphael agrees with Iacovelli’s sentiments.

“It’s an intensive program that addresses all of the main skills needed to be a professional scenic designer,” Raphael said. “The showcase includes some of the models, sketches, plans and other tools that our designers use to present ideas to directors and developing ideas. The theater design program at UCD is an exciting place to be. It is always very busy and full of people who care deeply about theater and related arts.”

And the showcase at Wright Hall isn’t the only place where UC Davis Theatre Design MFA students will be showing their work. On Saturday, Kara Branch and Gian Scarabino will be taking part in the The Design Showcase West, a national portfolio show hosted at UC Los Angeles.

“Our students will be alongside students from NYU, Yale, Carnegie-Mellon and 50 other students from other top design programs,” Iacovelli said. “We have a 100% placement rate for our graduates and they work in many fields from ballet to such TV shows [like] “Modern Family” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Yet, the life of a MFA student at UC Davis’s theatre design department isn’t all glamour. Glenn Fox, one of the graduate students who presented his work on Wednesday, sums it up best.

“We are all insanely busy,” Fox said. “Busy designing beautiful sceneries, that is.”

MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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