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Interview with Avenue Q Technical Director Stephen Kromka

Avenue Q opens tonight (November 7) at 8 p.m. in the Studio Theatre. The show runs from November 6-23 Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Sundays 2 p.m. Get your tickets in advance at the Box Office located on the 16th floor of the Cathedral of Learning or buy them at the door.  Check out our interview with the technical director, Stephen Kromka! Stephen is the first student to be a technical director on a show here at University of Pittsburgh Stages.

Stages: How would you define the role of a technical director?

Stephen Kromka: I would define a technical director as the person who supervises all technical aspects of a theatrical performance.  This encapsulates the set, lighting, sound, and props. Within Avenue Q at Pitt, my focus was the set.

Stages: What is it that interests you about technical direction? Is it something you would consider doing professionally?

SK: I am the type of person that likes to be in charge, a blessing and a curse.  I become depressed and unsatisfied when I am the "low man" in a project.  Being a technical director, I become a part of all of the behind-the-scene aspects of a show.  I learn the theater magic.  I get to find ways to create the magic.  That is what interests me most.  When people ask me, "What did you do today?"  I get to say things like, "I built a castle.  What did you do today?"  It is always exciting creating something that is completely new and original for each particular show. I am considering doing this professionally.  I am looking into working around Pittsburgh now and maybe even graduate school in Technical Direction. 

Stages: What has the process of Avenue Q been like? What specific tasks have you performed?

SK: It has been daunting to say the least.  Many people don't really how much time, effort, and communication goes into a musical.  Some tasks I've had to perform is attending production meetings, drafting the set, ordering the required materials for the build, communicating the designer Gianni, and responding to whatever anyone needs.  Some of these things I have done well, while I have had some hard learning experiences along the way.

Stages: What pleasant surprises or unexpected challenges have you encountered along the way?

SK: One of my favorite surprises was when my cabinet keepers for the usable show windows actually worked.  A great deal of thought goes into making theater tricks work with everyday objects and hardware at our disposal, and it is incredibly satisfying when you learn that one of your ideas work. An unpleasant surprise was when I found that the first design of my sliding door used in the show did not work.  Honestly, it was awful.  I didn't put enough thought into it and I paid the price.  But it taught me a lesson.

Stages: As a student in your last semester, what are your plans post graduation?

SK: Right now I am applying for Technical Director positions around Pittsburgh and Graduate School programs at Yale and CMU.  I am not entirely certain what direction I want to take, but I want to keep my options open.

Stages: Anything else you would like to add?

SK: I would just like to thank everyone in the theater department at the University of Pittsburgh for giving me the opportunity to hold the position of Technical Director for a University of Pittsburgh Stages MainStage show.  It has been an honor working with all of you and thank you for your patience with me as I have gone through the ups and downs of learning this craft.  A big thank you to Faculty Technical Director Jon West as my mentor, Designer Gianni Downs, Shop Foreman JC Bardzil, Master Carpenter Micky Krenek, and to all of the students who helped make the show possible.  You all helped me learn and prepared me for the future.

Of his work on Avenue Q, our full-time technical director, Jon West says, "Stephen has fully answered the challenge that was serving as the Technical Director for a main stage musical here at Pitt, which is no small accomplishment given all that goes into this position, not to mention being a full-time student on top of these demands. I am exceedingly proud of Stephen and I am excited to see him, to quote our Chair, 'Go Forth and Conquer.'"