Theater program helps uncover mystery
CBS worked with the UH’s theater and dance program to produce an episode of “48 Hours Mystery.”
Steven Wallace, the department head and four students worked with professionals from the entertainment industry for two weeks to conceptualize and construct the set for the episode, which was more abstract than the show’s usual documentary style.
“This is the first time they went a more theatric way of presenting the story. Quite frankly, the reason was that they couldn’t get into the house legally,” said Wallace.
Wallace and his team were asked to recreate the scene.
“They tried to base (the set) on a floor plan that was presented in the first trial,” he said.
Among the students asked to assist with the project was Jacob L. Davis, a recent graduate from the program.
“We had to run with a minimal crew,” said Wallace. “I needed someone who really knew our lighting system, and that was Jacob.”
Davis originally was brought in just to facilitate things and get the project running.
But when CBS made it clear that they wanted a more theatrical style, Davis stayed on set.
“I started with building the scenery and from day one, I was always there,” He said. “It took a little bit more (time) than I expected. I think I ended up putting something close to 60 hours into it over the course of about a week.”
Working in a sound stage like the one at UH provided some unforeseen advantages to the crew from CBS.
“These camera guys out of Florida were blown away by how quickly these LED fixtures that we have were able to change color,” Davis said.
The program’s director agrees with Davis.
“They’re used to an hour setting up another lighting look. We could literally give them a lighting look in a minute,” Wallace said.
But even though UH’s equipment was better than what the film crew was used to working with, Wallace said that the University is still far behind the technology curve.
“Part of my mission is to not just train people for theater, but to train people for the entertainment as a whole. For us to stay up to snuff, we’ve got to move into the technology world,” he said. “The kind of equipment that our students are working with just can’t be 20 years old. It can’t even be 5 years old.”
Wallace said that he thinks an upgrade would attract more networks like CBS, giving UH a boost in reputation and providing networks with an affordable, high-quality sound stage.
“It’s a business; it’s all about how much it costs,” Wallace said. “If they had shot this in New York, it would have cost them easily 10 times more.”
And Wallace said that he is willing to work hard to make a good impression.
“I wanted them to leave thinking ‘this is a Tier One operation.’”
Does this mean that theater and dance students can expect to have the opportunity to work with CBS and other networks during their college career?
Wallace said that he certainly wants the University to do more projects like this, so that the facilities aren’t left unused during the summer semesters.
“I think universities need to reinvent what they do in the summer,” said Wallace.
“(They should be) reaching out to the profession, having professional workshops, and bringing corporations in to do stuff.”