October 01, 2019
By Hannah Phillips
Theatre Course Steals the Show
Long before the curtains part, students in Erik Viker’s Stagecraft class are already hard at work behind the scenes. Each year, as SU theatregoers book their seats, this cast of student stagehands creates the scenery that astounds audiences on opening night.
Professor and head of theatre, Viker has been teaching Stagecraft since his arrival at SU in 2003. He describes the course as an “immersion-learning” introduction to theatre technology. Students bring scripts to life as they learn the basics of scenic construction, installation and operations.
Though the course is required for theatre majors, Viker’s crew welcomes students from all departments.
“Non-majors seem to find this different type of learning enjoyable,” Viker explains. “Stagecraft class is a valuable part of an overall liberal arts education, which should always help students learn how to think critically, communicate effectively and solve problems.”
Whether one is a major or non-major, performer or technician, Viker promises the results can be show stopping.
“There is a moment in every production when the audience and the artists come together and are changed, emerging from the experience somehow greater than they were before,” he says.
Viker’s students give the course a lot of props. Susquehanna alumna and former Stagecraft student Ashley Harman ’10 currently works as a carpenter for Cirque du Soleil, the world’s largest theatrical producer.
“I loved the hands-on aspect of the class,” recalls Harman, who majored in theatre production & design. “It was always rewarding to know that the scenery built was something that you created.”
After Susquehanna, Harman earned her MFA in scenic design & production from the University of Arkansas and spent three years working in the Broadway Touring industry. Two years ago, she transitioned to Cirque du Soleil, joining an international tour across Russia, Europe and South America before transferring to the Amaluna tour.
Today, Harman claims Viker deserves a standing ovation.
“Erik has a special ability to teach the curriculum of a class while sneaking in valuable life lessons,” she says. “I feel confident and comfortable taking on a variety of roles within my industry because of the preparation I gained through his course.”