MCCC's Entertainment Technology Program
Opens the Backstage Door for Student Kate Volz

8-11-05

While we usually associate the Broadway bug with those who want to act, the other side of the stage is also a magnet for those with the talent to bring great ideas to life, such as Hightstown resident Kate Volz, who is studying for a career in stage management.

Volz always thought she would major in music at college. She played trumpet, French horn and the mellophone (a French-horn type instrument designed for marching bands) throughout her years at Hightstown High School, where she graduated in 2003. But when her drama student friends began practicing across the hall from the band, they asked her to help out. She did, and she found that she loved working backstage on lighting, costumes and set design.

When Volz began her college studies at Mercer County Community College, she chose to major in Theater, planning to focus on the technical aspects of the craft. But after a year of part-time study, her professor, Robert Terrano, told her about a brand new major called Entertainment Technology, a program he initiated. As Volz sees it, she was in the right place at the right time. She switched her major and is now enjoying the variety of courses offered. “I think this is a great program. At first I wasn’t sure, but Bob Terrano said ‘You are going to need this,’ and now I’m glad I decided to transfer.”

According to Terrano, the college developed the Entertainment Technology major to meet the demands of many burgeoning new career fields. The major combines the technology and design of lighting, sound and broadcasting with aspects of theater, video production, computer drafting, and electronics. Students get hands-on experience through a required internship.

Volz has taken advantage of opportunities to get her work experience right on Mercer’s campus, where she has been a volunteer with the Late Nite Series, a free “coffee house” that attracts area musicians, actors, comedians and an eclectic audience. Open every Friday evening during the school year at the college’s intimate MC³ Studio Theatre, the Late Nite Series presents interesting challenges for the backstage crew.

Another backstage opportunity arose during the annual student production at the college’s Kelsey Theatre, when Volz worked on the play “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” It was an especially exciting experience for Volz, who was asked to “call” the light and sound cues, which means she controlled the look, sound and pace of the show. While the original plan was to have her call one rehearsal and one performance of the show, faculty members Nick Anselmo and Bob Terrano, along with the show’s stage manager, Amy Davidheiser, liked her work so much they asked her to call the entire run. “It was exciting and nerve-wracking...and a ton of fun at the same time,” Volz said. “It was awesome for me to already have that opportunity, especially with such a great cast, crew, and production team.”

To help students like Volz transfer to a four-year college, Terrano has been working to finalize an agreement with the New York City College of Technology, City University of New York, as they have the only four-year baccalaureate degree program in Entertainment Technology on the east coast.

Volz isn’t yet sure whether she’ll take advantage of that opportunity, but she definitely wants to continue her education for a bachelor’s degree. As she looks beyond college, she says, “You just have to strive for it and keep attacking it until you get there. Yes I would love to work in New York, on Broadway, but I will also be looking at options in regional theater.”

For now, Volz is immersed in the creative challenges of her college experience, and is looking forward to a future filled with light, sound and action.

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