four years since 1967, top artists in theatre design have gathered
in Prague for the Prague Quadrennial. This June, three recent graduates
will be among them -- and they're hoping the experience and contacts
they garner will help parlay their SF State educations into thriving
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
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
represented 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
the 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,"
"I just knew I had found what I wanted to do. He changed my life."
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