It’s been quite the exciting week over at the University of Maryland. Sure, it has accepted an invite into the Big Ten, which actually has like 14 members now, in case anyone is keeping track.
And! There also are exciting goings-on among the theatrically inclined grad-student Terps, who are working on the third production of their partnership with Adventure Theatre MTC. Graduate students at Maryland have the opportunity to work as designers on ATMTC productions, earning both a small stipend and academic credit.
The first show of the partnership was “A Year with Frog and Toad,” which earned nine Helen Hayes Award nominations. Two were for design work done by grad students: Collin Ranney was nominated for set design and Chelsey Schuller for costume design. Next came “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Master of fine arts candidate Jake Ewonus is the set designer of the upcoming “A Little House Christmas.”
“It has certainly helped boost my résumé a bit,” said Ranney, who has since worked at Signature Theatre and Studio Theatre. “As students, we all have the opportunity to assist on professional productions. But actually getting to design one [is] fabulous.”
From ATMTC Artistic Director Michael Bobbitt’s perspective, there are a bunch of benefits to hiring students — starting with the fact that they’re cheaper. “To pay someone a stipend and get quality, professional work certainly helps our bottom line.”
But, he said, “the best thing is that we are getting new approaches to design.”
For “Little House,” Bobbitt said, “these designers are just killing it! They are killing it. I’ve been taking a few kids in to see the set, and they are just entranced by it.”
To select the designers, Bobbitt and an ATMTC director swing by the MFA showcase in the spring. “We look at all their work, ask them questions, grill them about their skills and we walk away with a bunch of résumés,” Bobbitt said. He and the director then select the strongest designers for an upcoming ATMTC project and get the green light to bring on a student in a professional capacity.
“I think it’s a great model for any theater to consider,” Bobbitt said. Because the students are under the tutelage of Maryland professors, “you get their designing work that’s all being supervised by other professional designers, so you have two brains on the project. . . . And what a great way to get these people their introduction to these theaters.”
“A Little House Christmas” is being presented through Dec. 31, at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org. 301-634-2270.