four years since 1967, top artists in theatre design have gathered
Prague for the Prague Quadrennial.
June 15-24, three recent graduates from SF State will be among them—and
they're hoping the experience and contacts they garner will help
parlay their educations into thriving careers.
Mutsumi Takaki (B.A., '03), Ruth Raser (M.F.A., '05),
and Maya Linke (M.F.A., '07) will each have their work
displayed at the 10-day festival’s Student Section "Scenofest,"
where SF State will be one of 31 American schools featured. All three
alumni have saved up to fly to Prague, where they will take workshops
with such leading talents as "The Lion King" designer Richard
Hudson and meet scenographers who could become their future employers.
"It's a chance to make connections with designers from all
over the world," says Theatre Arts Professor John Wilson, who submitted
the winning entries. "Being in this competition, the students will
be exposed to a level of design in this field that is at the top of human
The winning SF State submissions fulfill the Quadrennial’s call
for "cutting-edge" student work. Raser's detailed period
costumes for a University production of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"
will be presented on mannequins, while Takaki's scenic designs
for a Japanese twist on "A Christmas Carol" will be represented
by large photo blowups. Linke boasts two chosen entries, also to be
by photos. The first is a cliché-busting set design for "West
Side Story" that replaces the usual brick stoops with moving steel
sculptures. The other is a class project for a theoretical production
of Jean Genet's "The Maids." Linke's quarter-inch
model imagines a theatre with a Plexiglas floor and seating to give
audience a surreal, floating feeling.
Linke, who worked as a photographer before entering the University's
Scenic Design program, says she hopes to meet European designers who
might hire her as an assistant. She’s grateful to Professor Wilson
for the opportunity to go to Prague, but more importantly for his inspirational
teaching. "I walked into John's class and a light went on,"
she says. "I just knew I had found what I wanted to do. He changed
Wilson, who has taught at SF State for 10 years, is not surprised by
his former students' success. "It says a lot about the urban environment
SF State is in, where our students are stimulated by international art
shows and theatre productions," he says. "At the Quadrennial,
we're up with NYU, Yale ... It's a great honor to be invited."
Distinguished alumni of the scenic design program include David Gropman
(B.A., '74), who received an Oscar nomination for his
art direction in "The Cider House Rules." His production design
talents will be showcased next in the forthcoming movie musical "Hairspray."
Photo: Courtesy Monica Jensen