Q&A with tech theater director Andrew Okerson

Veronica Teeter

Who are you, described in one sentence?

  • “My name is Andrew Okerson. And to describe myself in one sentence, I would say: I am a creative dog lover. That’s my sentence.”

Did you take a similar class when you were in school?

  • “Oh yeah, I was in the tech crew all four years of high school. I took theater arts and design classes in college. And then I was an auditorium manager in my previous position for five years.”

What drew you to teaching technical theater, instead of just pursuing a career in it?

  • “I like doing technical theater as a career outside of the educational world, but I think it’s so important that we pass these skills on to the people that are coming up below us because I can only do it for so long. So if I get someone that’s fifteen years younger than me doing it now, I can watch them grow and I’ll have that kind of a personal reward watching them personally succeed in the future, even fifty years from now.”

What drew you to Carmel High School?

  • “The opportunities that Carmel can provide. I mean, with a six thousand person student body the possibilities for collaboration between departments are endless.”

What is your favorite aspect of technical theater and why?

  • “I’m a sound designer, I really really like sound, so if I had to put one down that would be it. But if you want the cheesy answer, just the synergy of all those parts coming together and making a cohesive idea, that’s my favorite part.”

How would you describe technical theater?

  • “Well, technical theater, especially at a high school level is kind of a place name for the theatrical arts that don’t involve acting. So sometimes people think of tech theater as stagecraft where you’re building and putting things together, but I’m hoping we can expand into the design aspects, into scenic painting, into artistic designs, and push towards those types of things.”

You’ve talked about how you’d like to turn the program here at CHS around, what do you think is the current situation, and how do you plan on fixing that?

  • “I think there’s great bones in this program, and lots of good things have really happened, Phantom was a recent amazing show. And the Little Mermaid, was an amazing show. And I think we can build on those performances, and build on those student experiences and really dive in deeper on to the production and on to the artistic side of what the students are capable of doing.”

In your mind what does the ‘ideal’ tech program, not necessarily at CHS, look like?

  • “The perfect tech crew, is a tech crew that communicates. It’s a tech crew that acts as a team. And is a tech crew that knows that there is a mutual respect, between them, the performers, and the audience. And with that triangle system, you’re going to have a good time no matter what obstacles you put in the way.”

What kind of skills will students enrolled in your class learn?

  • “You learn all kinds of skills, you get basic carpentry, you get basic rigging, you learn about sound and lights, you learn about scenic design, scenic painting, you can learn about costuming, makeup, and staging, and blocking are all parts of this course.”

What should Carmel High School Students know about your class?

  • “It’s really hard work. There’s sweat and tears put into it, but the rewards that come out of it will match that effort that’s put in it at the get go.”

If a student walked into the class on any given day, what would be happening?

  • “Because we have so many things happening, they’re gonna see stuff happening all over the place. We’ve got people fixing lights or setting up lights, we have people sawing in the shop right now, there’ll be building for shows, there’s paperwork that’s getting done for planning in the future. So there’s going be people working on a different stage of every part of the process.

What kinds of students could take this class? Like what audience does this class advertise to?

  • “You’ve heard how STEM is a popular education word right now, I would argue that we are covering all the aspects of STEAM. Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. If you like any of those things, there is an applicable job in the tech theater world.”

Do students have to take the class to help out in a performance?

  • “Not necessarily, we’ll take crew members that have not taken the class.We do require that you have a minimum of the first year of tech theater to be able to be a crew lead on a show. But we are willing to take crew applications from any student in the school.”

How would students interested in helping out during a performance, but are not currently enrolled in the class, go about joining?

  • “We’re about to put together a school-sanctioned, school-sponsored club. So we’re gonna have everybody look out for club sign-ups. So if you’re not in the class, you can still participate in the club after school.”

If you were to make a slogan for the this class, what would it be?

  • “Carmel High School Tech Theater, an experience worth pursuing. I don’t know, I’m put on the spot when you ask something like that.”

Anything else you want to say?

  • “There’s not a lot of classes- like you can go to an art class and paint something and maybe take it home a see it or it might get up in a gallery, or you can write an english paper and your teacher will evaluate it. But there’s not a lot of school disciplines where you can do some work, and that work’s gonna be seen by two thousand of your peers. So that’s a really rewarding part of this program.”