Undergraduate student has rare opportunity as mainstage technical director
by Deneia Washington
She Stoops to Conquer, which ran at Temple Theaters from November 12 – 22, was a special opportunity for junior theater student William Bankhead to display leadership and skill by taking on a position that has only been given to a select few. Bankhead was given the chance to take full control as technical director for this mainstage production.
Since starting his studies at Temple, Bankhead has been under the mentorship of resident Technical Director Andrew Laine, and upon transitioning from scenic design to technical direction Bankhead began to challenge himself more and more. “Andrew gave me that in the form of assisting him on Oklahoma! [Temple Theaters' fall 2013 musical]” he says.
Even while hinting to Laine at the end of last spring semester that he was ready to take on a full show, Bankhead didn’t know that those words would become a reality. Expecting to enter into Laine’s office and find out which show he’d be assisting Laine with, Bankhead was given the good news.
“When I went to him to see what show he'd like my help on, he said rather than assisting him, I could take on She Stoops to Conquer in its entirety,” Bankhead explains.
Leading up to this decision, Bankhead had taken a few of Professor Laine’s courses and hung around the scene shop, exemplifying his willingness to observe and assist. This, along with his work as Assistant Technical Director of Oklahoma! with the major assignment of the windmill, displayed his ability to problem-solve.
“Over the course of all of this, he had developed an understanding of how scenery is constructed, of budgeting time and materials, and his drafting skills were becoming very strong,” Laine says.
While grateful to be given this opportunity, Bankhead was still a bit apprehensive. “I was terrified at the prospect of tackling an entire show on Temple's mainstage by myself,” he states. “But I'm also of the mindset that just because something's hard or scary doesn't mean it's not worth it.” [caption id="attachment_994" align="aligncenter" width="585"] The complete set of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER[/caption]
The role of the technical director is a balancing act of time, money, and craft. When the designer has an idea and decides the size, shape, and look of the piece, “I, as the technical director, take that finished product the designer has conceptualized, and lay out the materials, budget, and assembly needed so a scene shop of craftsmen can make it into a reality,” Bankhead explains.
While Bankhead felt a little awkward of essentially becoming an “authority” over some of the graduate student actors, and even a few professors whose courses he had taken in the past, he made certain to let people know he wouldn’t be forcing orders around. “I was there to complete a task in a timely and cost-effective manner, and above all, to learn,” he states.
He feels that being given this opportunity is a testament to honing in on his interests and craft. Going off of the idea that people must follow before they can lead, Bankhead immersed himself in a variety of theater and elective classes, while also taking on different positions in various productions. “That’s how I grew as a theatre-maker, by cultivating a sort of theatrical cura personalis.”
“I think what helped me was, and still is, going into every class, theatre or otherwise, and every show ready and willing to learn something, confident that everyone you meet has the potential to teach you something new,” says Bankhead.
He especially enjoyed being able to work in the scene shop. Its stocked shelves, organization, and helpful staff were signs of creativity dangling at his feet. “What better place to pick up the gauntlet, and maybe make something great?" he says. "It was like being invited to play in a giant sandbox, and make cool things for and with people.”
Bankhead sees the relationship between him and Laine as being a positive and ongoing exchange occurring between teachers and students, which results in constant growth. “I like to think he saw that growth, and was willing to take a chance on me, because he knew that I'd be able to roll with the punches, and ask for help if I needed it,” he states. “So I essentially took the leap of faith, content in the knowledge that I would have the full resources and support of my shop and department behind me.”
Laine believes that a leader is a balancing act of organization, confidence, humility, and the willingness to absorb new information – traits that Bankhead exhibit well.
“He did a great job with She Stoops to Conquer, and it should stand as a strong example of his work for his portfolio.”
This article was edited to include quotes from Andrew Laine on Friday, December 12.