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Assistant Production Manager for Goodspeed Musicals Relies on Skills She Learned at Seton Hill

What made you decide to come to Seton Hill, and to major in theatre design & technology?

I first visited SHU back in 2011. My mother and I had scheduled three college visits in the Pittsburgh area for the same day, and were driving in from north of Philadelphia. It was the first university we saw that day, and I ended up cancelling the next scheduled college tour because I wanted more time with the SHU campus. The first thing I noticed was how kind and helpful everyone was compared to other universities. After viewing the beautiful campus, taking a tour through the Performing Arts Center, and speaking with staff members in Registrar and Admissions, I was sold. I could not envision going to college anywhere but SHU.

In terms of my major, I knew I wanted to focus on stage management, but was unsure as to whether to head into Theatre Business or Theatre Design and Tech. I actually started off as a Theatre Business major. Fortunately, my advisor Karen Glass (assistant professor of theatre and resident scenic designer) caught me at the end of my first semester and guided me into Theatre Design and Tech, which was a better option for me.

What part of your Seton Hill experience made the biggest impact on you?

The community. I don't take this lightly - coming from a public school system in suburbia and graduating with over 770 students, I only knew perhaps 5% of my own graduating class. "Downsizing" at SHU was one of the best decisions, as I truly got to know everyone, not just in my program or year, but everyone that I studied/worked/lived with. At SHU, the sense of community was something I had never experienced before. The university has its own culture and life. When one part of the community experienced loss, we all mourned. And when one part of the community was celebrating, we all gathered together in excitement. That's not something you find everywhere, it makes SHU a very special place.

"I am constantly reminded of the things I learned in my liberal arts courses when discussing themes in musicals, physics of a set piece, or how to write a proposal for a project." 

Would you mind telling us a little bit about what you’re doing now in your career?

I am currently the assistant production manager at Goodspeed Musicals, which is a dream come true. When I worked as a stage manager previously, I was constantly curious about the rest of the process. How are budgets created? Who helps create a season? What do the shops need in order to better facilitate their products? In production management, I deal with all of those things and more. 

My days are always different, and I am always thinking big picture. While a stage manager focuses on one (or a couple) productions at a time, I am focused on this season, next season, and all of the productions and events those seasons contain. It is a balancing act that I enjoy, and each day is a newly exciting challenge. 

One part of my position at Goodspeed that I love the most is working with the Apprentices in the Apprentice Program. It is beginning to evolve with each season and each class of apprentices. This season I have some lofty goals (new lectures, webinars, sessions, workshops), but I think we can accomplish them.

What did you learn at Seton Hill that you use in your job today?

I learned how to communicate effectively through my education at Seton Hill. In the Liberal Arts Curriculum, you really work with a wide variety of students, staff, and professors. You must learn how to communicate with each individual, and sometimes that means a phone call instead of an email, or using technology instead of a face to face meeting. After learning the key to communication at SHU, there has yet to be a day where I do not use that skill. 

Is there anything you’d like to tell prospective students who may be considering the Theatre Design and Technology program at Seton Hill?

Seton Hill University is the prime spot to continue your education in Theatre Design and Technology. You learn a little bit of all fields (lighting, sound, set, costumes, management, etc.) while still focusing on your goals. Not only this, but the courses you take outside of the arts program assist you each and every semester with your major. I am constantly reminded of the things I learned in my LAC courses when discussing themes in musicals, physics of a set piece, or how to write a proposal for a project. 

Seton Hill  is also a wonderful place to stretch yourself and test your abilities. You shouldn't be afraid to fail at something - you should have seen me during the Costume Technology course, and I'm sure Susan O'Neill (theatre instructor and costume director) can tell you stories of my fruitless efforts to align a vest with the sewing machine. It is a safe space to learn, grow, and head out into the world better suited to tackle all challenges ahead. Vests not included.

Photo, above: Nikki with a set piece from Goodspeed's production of "Billy Elliott: The Musical."