Local Theatre Sparks Collaboration With Students

When “Annie” takes to the stage thanks to the Rochester Civic Theatre Company, you will be able to see some work by Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) students – but not as actors, but welders.

“We don’t have a huge budget down here,” Rochester Civic Theater Company set designer Doug Sween explained. “Paul (Titus) and his students were willing to help us.”

Titus is a welding instructor at RCTC.

He said Sween got in touch with him and asked if the students would be interested in a small project: crafting bunk beds.

“We don’t weld too much here,” Sween said. “We usually build in wood. We can obtain steel but none of us are welders.”

Sween brought over some blueprints to the College, and Titus provided feedback on what would work.

Then the theatre company purchased all the materials and two students got to work.

“It was nice – a really fun project,” student Kyle Jorissen said. He was one of two students who volunteered to work on the beds, along with Alex Miller. “I think it was really difficult at first but it was also a lot more fun to actually build something.”

Sween is impressed with the student work.

“We’re getting some really cool bunk beds but also multipurpose scenic elements,” Sween said. For example, a bed will be repurposed into the Brooklyn Bridge. “They’ll do double duty and triple duty.

“It’s amazing,” he continued. “I’ve been running back with a few tweaks here and there – ladder in a different position. Each time I come in, the guys who are working on this project will gather around their work. I think they’re extremely proud of it. I think they’re having fun with it. It’s something different for them.”

Even better is the fact that Titus was already teaching students about a specific weld that works for the bunk beds.

“[Students are] working on wire feed welding,” Titus said. “In the lab we are doing small pieces of simulated welds. This was an actual product so you could integrate those welds into a real-life application.

“They [students] like it just because it breaks up [the day]. When you practice welding it is somewhat monotonous. When you are doing something where you can see the finished product, it is a little more exciting.”

“Something new, doing something for others,” student Miller said when asked why he enjoyed the project.

Titus said that even though there is limited space to weld, the beds were a great project.

“It was good because it was something small but something somewhat complex,” he said. “With our space limitations it worked out pretty good.”

Five beds will be made for the play, which runs from Nov. 30 – Dec. 16, 2018.

“The process has been super enjoyable,” said Sween. “The two institutions working together has been really neat. I love non-profit organizations working together.”

Both Titus and Sween are also interested in working together in the future to provide more opportunities for students. But for now, they were able to join together and provide a piece of work to share with the greater community in a small, but fun collaboration.

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