BYU designers tour Big Apple

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    By Chauntelle Plewe

    A New York experience set the real-life stage for BYU theatre and media arts students, who visited several theater spots in the Big Apple this summer.

    Students went on a whirlwind ride through the city that has more varied opportunities than any other, said their guide, Doug Ellis, director of the BYU scene shop. Ellis had previously worked at three-fourths of the places they visited in New York and never lost his contacts after relocating to Provo three years ago, he said.

    “It opened my eyes to the reality of the world outside academia,” said Brittney Rodee, a theater major from American Fork, who spent a week in New York City this summer. “It is an important step in my road to professionalism.”

    The experience focused on set, costume, art and production design in television and theater. They met the top designers of their field in each of these areas.

    “Meeting the designers I have longed to emulate was a fantastic experience,” said Heidi Hathaway, a theater major from Provo who toured the entertainment capital.

    The tapings of “Live! With Regis and Kelly” and “Good Morning America” showed the students examples of work in the real world. Regis even took their picture and they got to “rock out” on the set of “Late Night with Conan O”Brien,” Ellis said.

    Ellis knows a lot about television set design, having been the art director for “Spin City” for four years and working with “Saturday Night Live” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

    There was something for everyone on the tour.

    “Our fearless leader sculpted and customized our visits to meet all of our areas of focus,” Rodee said.

    They went to four Broadway shows and on backstage tours of “The Producers” and the Metropolitan Opera House.

    “I honestly don”t think that a theater student who really wants to work after graduation should leave BYU without seeing and experiencing and learning the things we did in New York,” Rodee said.

    Competition is hard in theater, but the students got a chance to see some of their peers” work at NYU. They toured their theater department and attended their Graduate Design Show.

    The tour wouldn”t have happened without Doug Ellis” contacts from his past experience in New York. During his twelve years there he worked on sets for everything from commercials to trade shows.

    Since Ellis came to BYU to direct the scene shop and teach, he has created ten sets for various productions at BYU. His work includes the set for a new KBYU interview show, an opera, a ballet and theater productions.

    “I have a Peter Pan career — I never have to grow up,” Ellis said.

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