Thursday, August 15, 2013

High School Tech Portfolios

While looking for another email, I recently stumbled across a conversation I had with a friend who is a high school drama teacher. He had two students who were looking to present tech portfolios for colleges and wanted to know if I had any tips. After re-reading the conversation, I decided that it might be worth sharing more widely.
Some of this I learned by creating my own portfolio during college, some of it I learned while working in the theatre recruitment office as a work study position. Please feel free to pass this along to any high school tech student you know, and please feel free to comment below or email me directly if you have any questions. 

Adam: hey - do you have any quick and dirty tips for a portfolio presentation for college?
 me: what kind?
  set?Stage management?
 Adam: Lizzie wants to SM, Zoe wants to do Lights
2:20 PM those are the only tech folks this go around
 me: They want to see progress as much as finished product
2:21 PM so if you have research images, sketches etc, include as many as you can with the pictures from the production.
  For Lizzie (SM), she should divide her paperwork into two books
2:22 PM one is a rehearsal book that contains blocking notes and anything else she used in rehearsal
  the other is a show binder that contains the script neatly marked for calling the show
2:23 PM The show binder should be so neatly and cleanly marked that any other stage manager could pick it up and call the show without having to ask any questions.
  The more samples of clean, easy to understand paperwork Lizzie can provide (that she created) the better. Contact sheets, schedules, rehearsal reports for example.
2:25 PM For both of them, it is more what you have to say about what is in the portfolio than what is physically included, so practice talking about it.
  What were your challenges on this show and how did you overcome them?
  What did you learn from working in this way?Remember, all high schools do not work in the same way. You should not assume that if you tell a college rep that you were the lighting designer, or the SM or the props master that they know what that means. You need to tell them what that meant at your high school. What exactly were your responsibilities in that position. 
2:26 PM Also from a asthetic standpoint...the pages should be easy to look at, not too cluttered (this is mostly for designers) 3-5 images per page depending on the size of the pages.
2:27 PM No cutesy creative fonts, just clear and easy to read.The photos should be straight on the page with a simple clean border around each photo (no overlapping photos or tipped artsy angles). Resist the temptation to turn this into a scrap book.
2:28 PM Make sure you can easily read the name of the show, author, director and perhaps the names of the costume and set designers (whose work will also be pictured in the lighting design photos)
  keep your shows on either two or four pages, never one or three
2:29 PM In other words, I want to open to a page and have everything I see belong to the same show.
2:37 PM Also, shows do not need to be in chronological order
2:38 PM take your three most impressive pieces and put #1 first, #2 in the middle of your portfolio and #3 at the end. Fill in with your other shows in between.
2:39 PM Those top three don't need to be the ones with the prettiest pictures, they may just be the things that are most unique, that set you apart
2:40 PM Anything that might be different than what the college reps have been looking at all day.  
Adam: does Lizzie (SM) want to include any pictures in her portfolio?
2:50 PM me: If she does, not many
2:51 PM They can give her something to talk about "getting all the cast organized for these vignettes and in and out and up and down the ladders and the stairs was one of my big challenges and this is how I did it"
2:52 PM "As you can see by the costumes, I had a lot of work coordinating X with the designer and the wardrobe crew"
  Her pictures should be limited, a small portfolio of pictures (could be binder sized) to go with her beautiful books of paperwork
 Adam: Should Zoe include old lighting plots that were created on Word before she knew what she was doing?
 me: yes she should, put them later in the book.
2:54 PM They will be interesting to the college reps because they show a desire to learn and, when shown with the better, later ones, an ability to self teach and improvise when she doesn't have all the skills yet. When she shows them she should present them in that light
  "this is where I was three years ago, I knew what I needed before I had been taught how specifically to do it, and this is the way I found to get things done"Remember that you are in high school and the colleges don't need you to know everything coming in. They want someone who is excited to learn and able to be taught. They want someone who is passionate about theatre, driven, ambitious, and willing to work hard. They want someone who is collaborative, and cooperative, responsible and respectful. Emphasis those qualities, regardless of the quality of the photos you are able to show, and you will have success. 

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