Liz Banks - Portfolio
         I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Austin College.  This fall I taught Survey of Fine Arts and Introduction to Theatre Arts, as well as serving as the scenic and lighting designer for the department’s production of The Mound Builders by Lanford Wilson and supervising and mentoring design students.  In the spring I will be teaching Scenic and Lighting Design and Introduction to Theatre Arts, continuing to mentor and supervise student designers, and also be designing sets and lights for Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal.

            When I started graduate school and began teaching three years ago as a GTA, I discovered not only a way to express my overall passion for theatre as a designer, but also the desire to share this passion with others via the classroom. As I joined the Austin College faculty, I have continued to seek ways to refine my pedagogy and expand my teaching methodology.  For example, as part of the Survey of Fine Arts class I taught this semester, the students were required to attend local fine arts events and respond to them in some way other than a traditional written paper.  Their responses ranged from a collage to a PowerPoint presentation and from a haiku to an original song performed during class.  These creative responses encouraged the students to analyze and explain their reaction to the works by creating art of their own, providing not only entertainment, but also ncouraging discussions on one of the main themes of the class, “What is art?”  Similarly, in my Introduction to Theatre class, the students embraced the final project, a presentation of a short scene, and produced quality work that everyone, including myself, enjoyed watching.  During the presentations, it was evident that they had shared my excitement about the theatre, as they went beyond the requirements and looked at the theme of the plays, an idea we have focused on all semester.  The JanTerm, mini-semester class on Space Westerns, which I am currently creating and preparing to teach, has sparked student interest campus wide, and has allowed me to study an interdisciplinary topic and have conversations with other faculty members across campus.  These successes in the classroom have affirmed not only my passion for theatre, but also my desire to teach, sparking that passion in others.

I earned my MFA in Scenography from the University of Kansas.  While there, I had the opportunity to design sets, lights and costumes as well as train the scenic and props running crews for every production between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2010.  I designed a broad range of shows, from scenic design for Rumplestiltskin and costume design for Almost, Maine to scenic and lighting design for Eurydice.  The latter production was especially exciting because I was able to incorporate rain, a running river, and a cascading waterfall into the set design, using the lighting design to highlight all of these elements.  I also did extensive logistical planning and found resources for buying all of the unusual items we used. 

            In the spring of 2010, in addition to completing my thesis project and continuing my teaching responsibilities at KU, I was hired as an Adjunct Instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College.  There, I taught Lighting I and Lighting II and designed lights for Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn.  Because the lighting classes are a combination of lighting production and lighting design, we discussed everything from how to focus an instrument or create a lighting key and plot to script analysis, collaboration, and electricity.  I enjoyed the opportunity to expand my teaching in another environment, and embraced the challenge of coming up with a variety of visual demonstrations to make the material more accessible, including using a lighting lab, illuminating a fluorescent tube with a balloon, and using ping pong balls to illustrate the flow of atoms.

            My GTA teaching responsibilities at KU exposed me to a variety of opportunities.  During my first year, I was one of a small group of GTAs teaching the Introduction to Theatre class, lecturing the large group on a rotating basis and leading two discussion sections.  The following summer, I was able to teach this course as sole instructor, giving lectures, leading discussion and facilitating a cumulative group project.  During my second and third years at KU, I served as the sole instructor for Scenic Production, often referred to as Stagecraft.  In this class I taught techniques including reading theatre drafting, set construction, and basic power tool safety, as well as concepts such as introductory color theory.

            One of the main reasons I chose KU was because the scenography program allowed me to engage in all areas of design.  Through this exploration, I have discovered that the areas that interest me most are scenic and lighting design.  I love the integration of art and logistics that both scenic and lighting design entail.  The forethought and planning required combined with the artistic possibilities of light working with scenery is a perfect outlet for my own balance between creativity and logistical planning.  I have especially enjoyed my design work on shows such as Eurydice and The Mound Builders, where I could take advantage of my position as both scenic and lighting designer, so that both designs significantly interacted with and supported one another.

            My thesis project served as a culmination of my studies at KU.  I designed lights, sets and costumes for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.  Although the design was a paper project, I generated all of the design and drafting elements necessary for production, as well as a paper about my research and design process.  For this project, I was greatly influenced by the ideas of the Theatre of the Absurd and focused on visually representing the feeling of helplessness and randomness imposed on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by the forces of the outside world.

            In the spring of 2009 I designed lights for a production of Macbeth directed by visiting artist Tazewell Thompson.  This design was selected as the national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Barbizon winner.  In addition to participating in workshops at the national festival in Washington D.C., winning the national Barbizon allowed me to travel to New York over the summer to participate in the Broadway Lighting Master Classes and attend several Broadway shows.  This design was also featured in the summer edition of Theatre Design & Technology magazine, published by USITT, as part of the Design Expo special feature.  Additionally, my designs for both Macbeth and Eurydice have been selected to be part of EMERGE: USA/USITT's 2011 Prague Quadrennial Student Exhibit.

             Ultimately, I do see myself as a scenographer, and enjoy designing a variety of elements.  I look forward to being able to teach and design in the future, improving both my pedagogy and overall design aesthetic.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions - liz@lizbanks.com