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The cover of the Spring 2007 SF State Magazine features two penguins, heads bent together as they view their offspring on the ground below.

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A woman sits stiffly on a couch, wearing a full-skirted gown of purple and lavender ruffles, a pearl choker and a white fan.  A man seated near her leans in with interest. He wears a ruffled shirt, embroidered coat and wig of brown curls. Photo by Monica JensenAlumni & Friends


Behind the Scenes

Every 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 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 endeavor."

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," she says.

"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 "Hairspray."


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Last modified June 19, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications