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Lights up with Claudia! Behind the Scenes with a BA Theatre Design & Technology Major

January 23, 2019

Portrait of Claudia Errickson.

Portrait of Claudia Errickson.
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

Claudia Errickson is a go-getter. The senior specializes in theatre design and technology, a niche track offered through the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance (TAD). During her time at the University, Errickson sought out countless hands-on opportunities in volunteering and working within the department. She assisted TAD’s previous department chair, Marcus Dilliard, in many impressive productions in the lighting lab and scene shop. More recently she was elected president of the United State’s Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) UMN-TC chapter. She is also TAD’s first design and technology student representative, bridging the communication gap between students and faculty. 

How does she manage? Errickson’s passion for theatre, light design, and technology, as well as the inspiration she finds in its challenges, are her driving forces. 

Learning by Doing

Errickson remembers first being bit by the theatre bug as a student at Highland Park Senior High in St. Paul. She started out as a stage manager before discovering lighting. “We had a very bare-bones, ancient lighting system. I thought it was this wonderful blend of technology and math; this artform where you can really paint with light. I have a background as a visual artist too, so it hit this chord with me and has resonated since,” she says. 

Upon arrival at UMN, Errickson felt overwhelmed with possibilities. “One of the benefits of this University, and why I love this department, is that it’s very easy to do what you want. I was interested in set building, painting, lighting, stage management, and sound, and I was able to dip my toe into everything,” she recalls. She spent her time seeking out hands-on experiences, noting that the transition from passively learning in class to actively creating in the lighting and scene shops was a huge step in her development. Errickson found that light and design was where she thrived, and she had her eye on one artist in particular. 

Dilliard taught Errickson’s lighting and design course her second year. Admiring his style and approach, Errickson sought out freelance lighting design opportunities that she knew Dilliard designed for. “I started picking calls I knew he was working it because I wanted to see his art,” she says. “Eventually I think he just realized I was following him around and asked me if I wanted to assist.” Errickson worked with Dilliard on two performances, Theater Latte’ Da’s Assassins, and Interact Ensemble’s Hot Funky Butt Jazz. As her final senior project approaches, lighting design for the BFA production at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, Errickson recognizes her personal and artistic growth. “Since starting this process with Marcus, I’ve really been able to develop my own practice that I’m now starting to implement.”

Creating Her Own Way

In addition to her deep involvement within the department, Errickson co-founded the USITT UMN-TC chapter last year and is president this year. The group provides resources for technicians and designers, specifically for those who are freelance. “One of our main goals, and one of the reasons we developed the student chapter, is because there’s a lot of talk about design and technology, but there’s not as much talk about how to function as a freelance artist,” explains Errickson. The group invites Twin Cities professionals to their weekly meetings to discuss the logistics of freelance design and technology work. Previously, they have covered grant writing, taxes, and workplace safety. To fund their trip to the national conference USITT UMN-TC hosted a showcase, “Thank you, Places” in December 2018. 

Reflecting on her time in TAD, Errickson notes an appreciation for the collaborative nature of the department. “Everyone has their own art and language that they carry about the art that they make, but when you’re working on a project, all of those things have to start combining. You learn to be the best communicator through this art form because you’re carrying something so close to your chest, and you have to show it, poke at it, and fix it with other people,” she says. Looking to graduation and beyond, Errickson has one goal: “As long as I’m stable, my next dream is to never be bored; to never have to take work, but to always want the work that I take.” 

This story was written by an undergraduate in CLAgency. Meet the team.