A Sabbatical Begins

Today is the first day of the new semester at Simpson College.  and I have NOT spent the majority of my Christmas recess preparing for classes as I normally do on account of the fact that this is the semester of my Sabbatical Leave.  Those familiar with academia will know what this means.  However, for the reader not familiar with this particular institution, some explanation is probably in order.

The rules may vary somewhat from institution to institution, but at my institution once a faculty member is “tenured” (achieved only after 7 years of consecutive service and a rigorous series of assessments as to teaching and other achievements), the faculty member is free to apply for a semester’s hiatus from all teaching, advising, supervisory and other duties in the pursuit of a self-defined program of personal and/or professional growth. faculty members are also eligible for subsequent leaves every seven years.

One of the challenges of being the lone design and technical theatre faculty member in a liberal arts theatre department is that I seldom have the luxury of concentrated study into one of the many sub-disciplines of design and technical theatre, unless that study is directly related to my teaching or production responsibilities.  Consequently, if you discount the summers, sabbatical leave provides someone like myself with the only real opportunity to explore some aspect of the craft that he is not able to turn adequate attention to in the normal course of the semester due to teaching and production load.

I have taken two previous sabbatical leaves. During the first in 1998 I investigated computer technology for technical production.  Information gathered during the sabbatical positioned me to specify and integrate computer-based sound editing and playback capability at my institution for both venues and to specify and adopt an economical PC-based lighting control application to increase the production standards for our flexible theatre space.  The second sabbatical leave in 2005 allowed me to concentrate on developing my facility with 3-D CAD, increase my overall CAD abilities and to work on my personal design communication skills.  This lead to the introduction of CAD training to our students and to my modeling a greater range of design rendering and presentation options.

In 2012, my leave is dedicated toward increasing my knowledge in and understanding of the technologies that are driving changes in lighting technology.    The sabbatical will consist of a survey of the existing moving light and related technologies, a discovery of the processes required to effectively employ them, and an analysis of the relative technological, economic, and educational practicalities of the adoption of these technologies.

The major goals of the sabbatical leave are:

  • To catalog the variety of automated fixtures and accessories possibly including but not necessarily limited to:
    • Moving lights
    • Scrollers and color engines
    • Other accessories such as auto-iris, gobo rotators, effects generators
    • LED fixtures
  • To identify the implications of the use of these technologies on the art and craft of lighting design and the impact upon the process.
  • To learn the processes and procedures necessary to operate and maintain the most promising models and types of technologies.
  • To ascertain to what extent these technologies can be adopted by Theatre Simpson and put to the use of the department in improving the quality of productions at BPAC and improve the breadth of training available to Simpson students wishing to study lighting technology.

This blog will serve to share those and other findings, discoveries and thoughts over the course of the following months.

That’s all for now.

Have fun!  But be safe!

SJM

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