The Department of Theater, Film, and Media Studies at St. Mary's College of Maryland
L to R: Joseph Musumeci, Holly A. Blumner, Mark A. Rhoda, Leah Mazur, Amy Steiger, Daniel Davis, and David Ellsworth, chair; photographer: Bill Wood
Theatre Design is the opportunity to reflect upon life events in a three-dimensional way. It provides the ability to state a triumph or a trauma with a simple aesthetic choice. Theatre Design is the avenue through which we make our darkest fears, deepest desires, and most frivolous thoughts visible with just the elements provided to us. This, to me, is the basic principle of teaching creativity, melding pedagogy with practice: provide the space to create unabashedly, foster the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with the collaborative team, focus on combining study of one area of design with another, and to bring to life the wild images and fancies students have when analyzing a script while also telling the story that is the epicenter of the design.
Moreover, because design can become an avenue for healing, social change, political statements, dismantling oppressive behaviors, amongst other things, it is my firm belief that a professor of design should be attentive to the emotional needs of each creative student while also maintaining the ability to foster a sense of academic achievement. In providing a safe space for all students -one that is rooted in the idea of diversity, equity, and inclusion- the potential for students’ creativity becomes boundless.
Design is, at its core, the visual representation of an entire complex and nuanced story. It is our duty as teachers and artists to reinforce these ideas.
Recent Courses Taught
Completed April 2017
Thesis, Scenographic Design- Titus Andronicus: The Material Effects of Sexual Assault and Trauma as Represented Through Design
Pudicitia, the Roman concept of modesty and sexual virtue, was the crux of ancient Roman sexual ethics. The word is derived from the more general pudor, the sense of shame that regulated an individual's behavior as socially acceptable. This reduction of women to their sexual purity began long before the ideas of modern day selfie culture and they hyper-sexualization of women in media. Walk through any fine art museum and you see the earliest representations of pudicitia. White marble statues, though coy and modest, have the delicate folds of wetted linen clinging to their bodies revealing their form underneath.
However, this objectification of a woman and her chastity are not reserved for a sculptor’s deft hand. In one of Shakespeare’s earliest works, Titus Andronicus, the ideas of virtus and pudicitia are put up for examination. Though, throughout the piece, Lavinia, Titus’ daughter suffers the brunt of violence. A rape in the woods by both of Tamora’s sons, a triple dismemberment, and the final act of filicide committed by her own father, all call into question the purity of Lavinia- not only what happens when it is taken from her, but also the shame both she and her father feel as a result of her rape.
This reduction of Lavinia to purely her innocence and chastity opens her up to the objectification of those around her, thus making the violence and atrocities committed against her akin to breaking a coffee mug or having a flat tire; it strips her of her humanity and turns her into a commodity, a commodity those around her can handle with carelessness and disregard.
These absurd thoughts of mercy killing in order to banish shame are fit only for an absurdist piece, far-removed from the once renowned ancient Roman culture. By placing those absurd beings in a surroundings representative of the innocence of Lavinia and the purity both Shakespeare’s Elizabethans and the Romans held so dear, the contrast of absurd cause and tragic effect can be examined.