Spotlight July 2015

<![CDATA[Spotlight July 2015: 70s Retro, Backstage Mom Year One, and The State of Sound Design!]]> Spotlight July 2015: 70s Retro, Backstage Mom Year One, and The State of Sound Design!
News, Events, Interviews, and More!
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July 2015
A Note from Wu Chen

This month, we have an excellent essay by Tech Tools co-founder (among many other hats) Laura Wilhelm, thinking back and looking forward on her first year as a mother working in the theatre; as the Tonys continue to not present a Sound Design award, Sound Designer Katharine Horowitz incisively examines and reflects upon our own Twin Cities culture towards sound design and how it is reflected in the both the art onstage and environment offstage; our ongoing Sightlines column features an essay from Lighting Designer Mike Wangen on his (and our) history.

This Spotlight has been particularly personal for me. I am a father myself now. I spend a lot of time thinking about the ethics, structure, and working conditions of arts & entertainment industry and how and where we can do better, and what better even means. But, unsurprisingly for those who know him, it was Mike who really touched a nerve.

In typical fashion, he introduced his essay to me with: “This article is not meant to be an objective history, but, a recollection of the Twin Cities theater scene of the 70s, my involvement in it, and how it might relate to today.”

In a sense, that’s what I think the performance arts wish to be: a subjective recollection of our collective and collected experience, presented with honesty and integrity, with a mindful eye to how it connects with our ongoing lives and world.

As a good friend said: "I really do believe art can change the world."

We founded Tech Tools to help give people the connections and the tools to better do so. This month has been a good reminder of that.


Wu Chen Khoo
Tech Tools co-founder and Operations Director

Sightlines: Twin Cities Theatre in the 1970s

A Personal Memory
by Mike Wangen


I was raised in Albert Lea, MN, about 90 miles south of Minneapolis and attended a very progressive High School.  It had a college level Humanities program which I was a part of, and, in my senior year, we took a class trip to the Guthrie Theatre to see Michael Langham’s landmark production of Oedipus, the King.  It was one of the most powerful pieces of theatre that I have ever seen and it still resonates with me today.  At the time, I had no inkling that 28 years later, I would be designing the lighting for a production of Fences on that same stage.  I am living proof of the profound effect that live theater can have on young people.

 When I moved to Minneapolis in the fall of 1972 to attend the U of M as a History major, my friends and I discovered a vibrant and burgeoning theatre environment...

Read the full article HERE!

Tech Tools Calendar of Events

2-Day Workshop - O'Shaughnessy Auditorium
This class is specifically designed for event or “arena” ground rigging. Whether you’re new to this kind of work, or you’ve been doing it for a few years, our instructors will draw on their training and extensive experience to teach you the must-knows of ground rigging, as well as many tips and tricks that make a job easier and better for everyone.

Visit our Events Calendar for information!

Not seeing something you'd like TTT to offer? Let us know HERE!


Backstage Mom


No, not that Honey Boo Boo here. 

Article by Laura Wilhelm,
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Mad Munchkind Productions, Tech Tools


I’m a theater mom.  To be more clear- I am a mother working in the theater.  If you come to my prop shop there is a sign on the door that reads:

 Breastfeeding/Pumping Mama’s Lactation Station

 Please knock and/or Announce Yourself  

This is mostly to prevent others from embarrassment.  I’ve heard the gamut of timid “h-h-hello?” to “HEY, LAURA! CAN I COME IN?”  Everyone has been understanding.  Everyone has given me space. No one has seen more of the propsmaster than they bargained for. Considering that the technical theater world is still predominately male, I feel lucky that the arts world is so open and flexible compared to my perception of other fields.  That is not to say it is all easy....

Read the full article HERE!

The State of Sound Design in the Twin Cities

Article by Katharine Horowitz
Sound Designer & Tech Tool Instructor

A successful sound design can create a deeper connection between the play and its audience: defining environment and emotion, clarifying voice and intent. With subtlety and psychology, sound design is the creative and technical process resulting in a complete aural environment. Theatre needs sound design to focus the ears of the watcher just as acutely as lighting design focuses their eyes.

Over the last twenty years, the sound designer has become a critical collaborator in American theater. It would be difficult to find a theater company these days that doesn’t recognize the need for modern sound design. However, the relative youthfulness of the field and its intangibility often lend themselves to the entire artistry being overlooked and misunderstood by producers, critics, and audiences.

Wu Chen Recommends...

I love learning how other people think. How someone comes up with an idea, how they learn, experiment, and explore is one of life’s great fascinations. There’s so much to be learned from how other people approach problems (and life in general). You may learn, “My oh my, I would never want to look at the world that way!” – that’s still something learned about someone else, and also yourself, by the way – or you may find yourself blown away as whole new ways of thinking, being, and acting open to yourself.

So it’s little wonder that I’m going to recommend The Mind of a Chef, a PBS TV series produced by Anthony Bourdain (it’s also available on Netflix). Each season follows a chef or two and really explores, well, their mind: their whys and hows and what-ifs.

It’s a fascinating journey down a rabbit hole of creativity, inspiration, and brilliance, and I recommend it to anyone involved in creative endeavours.

If you’ve been around me much, you’ll know that I’d argue that category includes everyone.

Participants get up close and personal with Automation in the Guthrie Theatre Scene Shop.  Photo Credit: Megan Engeseth
Photos used in this publication are copyrighted to Farrington Starnes and used with permission.
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