Thursday, August 20, 2015

The University of Texas campus was quiet over the summer, while students and faculty spent their time working on projects around the globe. The College of Fine Arts was no exception. Students and faculty from all three departments took advantage of the break from coursework to pursue research, teach seminars or test the waters of a future career. Here is a glimpse into what happens when classes end, and the fun begins.

Kate Ducey, an M.F.A. student of Theatrical Design, worked with Sven Ortel on the opera Svadba, at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in France.

Drawing from Kate Ducey's travel journal.Tell me a little bit about how you got involved with the Festival D'Aix and what your role was.
I was the Assistant Projection Designer. Svadba is a contemporary opera, sung a cappella by six women in Serbian. It was a new staging, very much using movement alongside the music as the main modes of storytelling. Sven [Ortel] needed an assistant for the project, and since my background is in movement-based theater, he thought I would be a good fit.

Was this your first project overseas?
It was! I couldn't have been more thrilled for the opportunity. Getting to travel for work is something I think everyone dreams of—I know I always have—so it really was a dream come true.

What was one of the highlights of the festival?
I think the highlight was really getting to know everyone there and developing friendships with other artists from around the world. Getting to bow on opening night was also hugely exciting.

How do you see your work from this summer shaping the new school year?
I think one of the best things about assisting was getting to see professional designers work all the way through the tech process. Seeing how they conducted themselves, spoke to the directors and picked their battles was really informative. I sometimes work hard to avoid confrontation, saying what I think someone wants to hear. But that's not the job of a designer—we are there to be a creative voice in the room. Of course you have to have a sense for when to use that voice, but ultimately being a "yes man" is not our job. We all want to create good work, and sometimes that means questioning choices. I also learned that sometimes it means getting on board with a choice once it has been made. 

While in France, did you get to break away from work and do any sightseeing?
I did! The assistant lighting designer and I, along with fellow second year M.F.A. Lacey Erb (who was visiting after attending the Prague Quadrennial with several other UT Design students), went down to Marseille on one of my days off. We hiked to Les Calanques, which are beautiful fjord-like inlets with high, rocky cliffs off the Mediterranean. It was over 100 degrees, but the 1.5-hour hike each way was worth it to bathe in the cool, clear blue water. 

I also wandered around Aix en Provence quite a bit, walking the Cezanne trail of sites and visiting his studio north of town. 

After I was finished at the festival, I took a few weeks to travel around Europe. I went to Paris, Germany and finally Dubrovnik, Croatia, where I took pictures that I intend to use in the projections for Twelfth Night at UT this spring.

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