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April 8, 2022

SVSU Theatre Department offers students a chance to improve their skills at the Southeastern Theatre Conference

Ten students from Saginaw Valley State University’s Theatre Department honed their skills at the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) annual convention from March 9-13 in Memphis.  

The convention offered theatre practitioners a wide variety of sessions, including workshops, design competitions, networking, auditions and interviews, and more. Workshops covered a wide range of topics from costume design and stage directing to musical theatre coaching and acting.  

The students in attendance included: 

  • Olivia Greanias, a theatre major from Saginaw 
  • Abbey Kuhns, a theatre major from North Street, Michigan
  • Adam Coggins, a theatre major from Swartz Creek 
  • Brielle Myles-Williams, a Spanish major from Saginaw 
  • Trinity Caldwell, a theatre major from Saginaw 
  • Dale Peters, a communications major from Bay City 
  • Zoe Gilbert, a theatre major from Hemlock 
  • Scout McCulloch, an education major from Port Huron 

This is the first time the school has organized an official group to attend the conference. Assistant Professor of Theatre Peggy Mead Finizio described some reasons students wanted to attend. 

“There are some students went to develop their acting training and skills, some went to gain information about theatre design and technology, and some went  seeking internships and jobs,” she said.  

“This year, there was funding through the SVSU Foundation Resource grant I received for USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) and SETC,” Mead said. “This funding only covers a portion of the cost of the trips.” 

The students were able to apply to the student association for additional funding to cover the rest of the trip. 

In addition to the workshops, participants were able to attend an address by two keynote speakers, Jim LeBrecht and Sally Cade Holmes.  

LeBrecht, a sound designer, filmmaker, and disability rights activist, co-directed and co-produced the Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp.” He began his theatre career in 1978. 

Holmes is a two-time Tony Award-winning producer. She has worked on shows such as “Hadestown,” “The Inheritance” and “Frankie and Johnny in Clair de Lune.”  

“Distinguished Designers,” such as Oana Botez and Narelle Sissons, were also featured during the convention. 

In the past, students who have attended the convention have found auditioning workshops to be the most helpful.  

“The last time SVSU students attended SETC, they attended workshops on acting and audition skills,” Mead Finizio said. “They found this very beneficial.” 

Kuhns attended as a media designer. 

“I was interested in the projections-related sessions,” she said. “The most important thing I learned from these sessions was how to troubleshoot projections in an outdoor theatre.” 

Her favorite part was getting to meet new people. 

“My favorite part was meeting new people through the networking events,” she said. “Theatre is a very collaborative industry, so the relationships you build now might become a future job opportunity.” 

The conference gave Kuhns confidence in her abilities.  

“I attended the conference mainly because I felt that I needed to gain more experience in my field,” she said. “Coming out of my first production as a designer, I was struggling with imposter syndrome. Meeting other emerging artists helped me feel more confident in my abilities.” 

SETC is a nationwide organization that helps connect theatre practitioners with training and resources.