IN HIS OWN WORDS:
Colby Freel 2018-19 Student of the Year Department of Theatre & Film
Why did you choose to study at UAF? When I was preparing to graduate from high school, I only had general ideas about what I wanted to pursue in life. Not feeling ready to leave Alaska on my own, but knowing that college was the logical next step, UAF (being close and affordable) was the natural choice. Going into my first year at UAF I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue, but I was able to explore and experience different fields that were of interest to me.
When did you first decide to pursue a degree in Theatre? Within my first year at UAF I had the opportunity to become involved in several department productions, including An Inspector Calls and The Ash Girl. These productions introduced me to the professional and supportive environment of the Department of Theatre and Film. However, it wasn’t until about a year or so later that I decided to declare a major in Theatre with a Concentration in Design and Technical Theatre. After seeing a touring Cirque du Soleil production during which I was enthralled with storytelling and design, I decided to pursue Theatre as my primary academic focus at UAF.
What first attracted you to Theatre? I was first involved in Theatre at Ben Eielson Junior High School, where I was immediately interested in technical theatre (I’ve only acted in one role – that was enough for me). I was originally attracted to the sense of excitement and adrenaline rush of a live performance. There is a certain stress or excitement that comes along with knowing you are trying to perfectly reproduce a performance live in front of an audience; it requires focus and quick decision making. Soon though, my interests shifted to a more substantive take on Theatre: storytelling. Design is an integral part of the historical narrative, and is a really interesting and creative way to tell a story.
What experiences at UAF have contributed to your academic and artistic success? There have been many valuable learning experiences at UAF, but one that stands out is my work on the Department’s production of A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Andrew Cassel. Working with my faculty mentor (Prof. Kade Mendelowitz), working with new and creative ideas, and collaborating with other artist on this project really expanded my perspective on theatrical design and storytelling. This production was the most impactful for me as a theater artist. I was able to grow and try new ideas and have the support of faculty while I did it.
Please tell us about your experience with Student Drama Association. Some of my closest personal relationships were built out of SDA productions. I most fondly remember the 2017 Winter Shorts production as a really successful pooling of student talent and friendship. The direction for each of the pieces was fantastic and all of the design elements worked well together. We also sold out twice which was quite an accomplishment.
Do you have any advice for new FLPA students? I think it is so important to develop your storytelling skills and process and to document both of those. You can develop skills by working on department productions, collaborating with local artists, experimenting, discussing with faculty, or investing time to learn a new technology or software. Working on department productions is the best way I have found to develop my own design/ artistic process. It is also important to create and continually update a professional portfolio (it’s the only way you are going to get a job!).
What are your plans after graduation? I just accepted an offer to attend The Design and Technology Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) program at San Diego State University. Here I will further hone my skills and pursue a professional career in lighting design. My ultimate goal is to become a lighting designer on Broadway.