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Santa Monica College Now Offering Technical Theatre Certificate

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By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

December 21, 2015 -- Students interested in careers as stage technicians, sound engineers, set designers and other theater crafts now have a path to those careers through Santa Monica College's new technical theatre program.

“Today, technical theatre -- once treated as a subset of theatre -- is finally coming into its own, with the expansion of theatre technology beyond the stage to related fields of entertainment, such as theme parks and concerts,” said SMC spokeswoman Grace Smith in a news release. “Advances in digital technology and innovations like the 3-D printer have generated new jobs within the technical theatre field.”

Through SMC's Career Technical Education programs, students now can earn a certificate of achievement in technical theatre to prepare them for direct entry into a variety of technical theatre careers.

Or students also can earn an associate in science degree in technical theatre at SMC, which qualifies students for transfer to a four-year college or university for advanced study in various areas of technical specialization.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the regional median income for technical theatre professionals is $28.12 an hour. The bureau's studies also showed job growth in the technical theatre field is projected to increase 10 percent to 18 percent by 2020.

“We launched our technical theatre certificate and degree because we wanted to create a pathway to advancement for our students who wanted to focus on the technical side of theatre, instead of performance,” said SMC Theatre Arts Department chair Perviz Sawoski.

Students in SMC’s technical theatre programs learn industry-standard technology, said Smith.

Courses cover topics such as how to use intelligent lighting systems, advanced wired and wireless audio equipment, video projection equipment, and stage machinery, as well as the basics of materials and techniques for set construction, scenic painting, and creating costumes and make-up, she said.

SMC student Paul Gabriel is working toward an associate degree in technical theatre and hopes to transfer to New York University, Carnegie Mellon University or CalArts.

Gabriel is already building a substantial portfolio, said Smith, and he has worked as an assistant lighting designer and stage manager for LA-based productions at venues like Schoenberg Hall at UCLA.

“I like to think that I’ve flourished since I came to SMC,” says Gabriel, who commuted from Pasadena to attend SMC. “It’s a very diverse community here, not something I grew up with.”

Technical theatre students working toward earning the certificate or degree are not required to take theatre performance courses, but are required to complete one general theatre course to become familiar with the traditions and basic vocabulary of the theatre, said Smith.

“Students who successfully complete our tech classes will gain an overall basic understanding of the mechanics of live theatrical events and their place in the larger entertainment industry,” said Sawoski. “Some of our students will focus on a particular technical area that will allow them to develop skills that meet and often exceed industry requirements for entry into careers as theatre technicians.”

For more information about SMC’s technical theatre, call 310-434-4319, or visit

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