The Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts had never previously sent their technical theatre and design majors on an international travel experience. So when the department finally got that opportunity, it made it worth their students' while as they attended the largest performance design event in the world – the Prague Quadrennial (PQ).
"PQ is truly the World's Fair for the technical theatre and design profession," says Roger Schultz, the instructor who instigated and spearheaded the project. "The PQ is an international exposition that highlights and exhibits the art of theatre designers from more than 76 countries spread across five continents."
Every four years since 1967, more than 5,000 registered theatre professionals and students, along with 30,000 visitors, descend on the Czech Republic's capital city. Featuring individual country pavilions, workshops, lectures, discussions and presentations on contemporary work in all theatre design disciplines; the PQ lasts 10 activity-packed days.
"Both the University and our department recognize the value of students obtaining international experiences in their field of study," says Schultz (BFA '89). "This event provided an innovative opportunity for students to witness first-hand the national trends and the work of leading theatre design practitioners from around the world."
The PQ also has a strong student component highlighted by the student pavilions, which were almost as extensive as the main exhibition, and an event called Scenofest, which involved live design/performance and student workshops.
"Our students were excited to take part in one and two-day workshops where they explored sound, light, costume and scenic design under the guidance of a renowned international theatre design artist," says Schultz. "It was also a wonderful forum for meeting and working with their peers from around the world."
The opportunity to visit Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and experience its long history and rich cultural life was an added bonus. As well as being known for such cultural heroes as Mucha, Kafka and Mozart, Prague is renowned for its architecture. With roots stretching back to 900 AD, much of the architecture in this city has survived intact. Pristine examples of Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance, as well as famous examples of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture abound.
"Add to that a culture rich in music, contemporary art museums, the fascinating residue of Communism and a real live castle (with St Vitus Cathedral as the crowning jewel) overlooking the entire city, Prague is a must see destination," enthuses Schultz.
The trip to the PQ was a significant educational opportunity for the students.
"Forums of this sort, specifically focused on their area of specialization, are rare," he says. "The students who participated returned transformed and more aware of their place and connection to a larger global community. As one student put it, "It was wonderful to see that there is so much more out there . . . more than I thought I knew, more than I could have imagined."
This story first appeared in the November issue of the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.