“The most important thing I learned during my off-campus trip is how significant the very act of going on an off-campus trip is.” Kelly’s topic for her Off-campus Project was “Designer Research Methods and Outside Influences, and Specific Scenic Design Research for Little Shop of Horrors, at the University of Michigan –Flint, Fall 2013”
Kelly Burge, Theatre Major
Kelly and Assistant Professor Shelby Newport traveled to Chicago to see three plays, visit the Chicago Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The objective was to gather research for the fall 2013 University of Michigan-Flint Theatre production of Little Shop of Horrors. Kelly has been given the honor of designing the set as part of her Honors Thesis. “Student design opportunities are very serious in our department, and must be earned, so being given this opportunity is tremendous for me, and was sparked and made possible by my need for a thesis project in the Honors Program.”
“We chose Chicago, because I had never been there, and it was a great place to see a lot of art and theatre all in the same place. It also allowed for primary research of physical elements that could be included in my set design.” Kelly was able to see the contrast between an elaborate set with many expensive mechanical elements, and a simple set with limited props, and few design elements. She learned the importance of paying attention to every detail in order to get her point across to her audience.
“We also took the time to explore the neighborhoods of Chicago as an opportunity for first hand research. I took a lot of pictures of store front windows, signs, awnings, and of the decay of buildings, and other textural elements that I might include in my project.” Included in their trip were an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River and a tour of the midcentury masterpiece Farnsworth House in Plano, IL that directly linked Kelly’s off campus research to her in class work in one of Professor Newport’s courses, Modernism (THE 241).
Not only was Kelly able to gather artistic data for her project, but she was able to meet with professionals in her field. Professor Newport introduced her to friends and colleagues from the various theatres, and Kelly was able to talk with them, ask questions, and learn about their work and life. “It made me think differently about what I will do when I graduate next year.”
Spending time with Professor Newport was invaluable as well. “Everything I did on this trip, I did with her, and so was able to ask every question I could think of, and get her professional opinion/insight on everything we saw. Not to mention, when we were in the car together, I was able to talk through my project with her, from my ideas to my struggles, and she helped me come up with a lot of new ideas, and get through some mental obstacles I was having in this, the earliest stage of my project development.”
Professor Newport added, “My time with Kelly in Chicago was equally as enlightening and exciting for me as a professional designer; teaching a student to open their eyes to the world around them, and then to use all that visual stimulus for design inspiration is what I strive to do, so to watch it all come together for Kelly was really rewarding. I also took tons of research photos and gained new ideas from the productions we saw; as designers we are always learning and always looking!”
Regarding her off-campus experience, Kelly stated, “I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the support of the Honors Program and the Department of Theatre and dance for making it possible.” See Kelly’s off-campus research at work on the stage of the University Theatre November 1-3, 9, 15, 17.