James McDowell joined the technical team at the University of Lethbridge University Theatre immediately after his graduation from university in 1989.
Originally hired as a stage carpenter by the theatre manager’s office, James has seen both this job and his “home” at the University change over the years. The theatre staff are now part of the Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts instead of the theatre manager’s office.
A versatile craftsman, over the past 16 years he has filled the role of electrician, head stage carpenter and stage manager as well as being both the set and lighting designer for various university productions.
James is currently serving as the department’s head shop carpenter. In this capacity, he is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the Scene Shop, the Scene Shop staff and between two and 10 students working in the shop at any given time as part of various drama courses.
Working from scale drawings and a scale model of the set, James is responsible for deciding how each set piece will be constructed and what the cost of materials will be.
James ensures that each set can be built within the shop time allotted for each show.
It’s also up to James to order the supplies he needs for each set piece and oversee everyone working in the shop as the set is being built.
There is, however, an added wrinkle. As often as not, the students he works with are in a carpentry shop for the first time in their lives.
James, along with Scene Shop Assistant Arlene Curran, must ensure that everyone knows how to use all of the tools – hand or electric, big and small – in a safe and efficient manner.
When not at the University, James has a number of interests that occupy his time. He is very involved with the technical facilities and operations of the South Country Fair in Fort Macleod.
He conducts workshops in technical theatre for local community theatre groups in smaller communities in southern Alberta and British Columbia.
James was also very involved in the birth and growth of the Lethbridge Children’s Festival. The Children’s Festival was started in 1992, and James continued to work on the festival until this past year.
James and his partner, Sheila Rogers, live in the city and enjoy camping with their two children, Jessamy and David. James is also an avid climber who loves to spend time in the mountains.
All in all, James is an asset to the University and to the community of Lethbridge.
U of L Communications and Public Relations Contact:
Bob Cooney, Communications and PR Officer (403) 382-7173