With computer modeling software becoming more industry-standard for theatrical design and production, Associate Professor of Theatre Craig Choma is working with junior Marina Capizzi to create virtual 3-D models of Studio and Harbach Theatres.
Using the program Vectorworks 2012, also used in architecture and landscaping design, Choma and Capizzi are using a virtual Studio Theatre to design the set for an upcoming production, with Choma and Capizzi as co-set designers and senior Ivy Reid as lighting designer.
Through Vectorworks, Choma and Capizzi are able to view theatrical designs of the upcoming production, “Under Construction” in 2- and 3-dimensional models of Studio Theatre, “as if we’ve peeled the roof back and we’ve kind of looking in on top of it,” Choma said.
“Once a 3-dimensional model like this is built, it’s really the ability to look at it from any angle I want is really exciting,” Choma said.
“Under Construction,” directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Jeff Grace, takes place in two eras: in the 1950s-60s and the modern day. The set features scaffolding, which serves as a metaphor of America under construction “suggesting there is work always to be done.”
Choma said that Vectorworks is able to replicate lighting or reflective qualities of building material, through a component called “Spotlight.”
“It’s a true simulation of all of these aspects and being able to really visualize ahead of time,” Choma said.
Choma said visualizing design helped him figure out where to place scaffolding units that the tallest supports can go around the pipe structure and planking in Studio Theatre.
“The fact that I was able to kind of visualize how it was going to fit, how it was going to interact and relate to the grid structure, that saved a whole huge step of going through the process of trying to position something,” Choma said.
Choma said Vectorworks provides designers with the ability to “problem solve well into advance of moving into the space,” which saves time, energy and resources.
Capizzi first approached Choma with the idea of working with Vectorworks and Choma jumped at the chance.
“It’s exciting for me that a student came to me with this sort of investigative purpose,” Choma said.
With Choma only being able to teach beginning design courses because of his time spent on building sets for theater productions, students who want to work in advanced design have to set up independent studies with him.
“Any exposure to this sort of thing (Vectorworks) is going to give those students a leg up if they decide to pursue design at an advanced level, either in graduate school or professionally in the industry,” Choma said.
Choma said Capizzi, who loves Disney, wants to work for Pixar someday.
By working with Capizzi, Choma said he was able to brush up on his own skills with Vectorworks and in the next couple years, might integrate it in the design courses he teaches.
Before Repertory Theatre Term, a Theatre Department program meant to simulate operating a professional repertory theatre company, the next big project for Choma and Capizzi is to build a virtual Harbach Theatre.
“There’s not a single right angle in that space. Everything is curved. All the walls are curved, the stage floor itself is curved. It’s got various levels and aspects to it, it’s going to be a very complex model to build,” Choma said.