The University of Indianapolis Department of Theatre has expanded its production capabilities beyond the stage. Greyhound Production Services, or GPS for short, is an event services production company run by theatre students and supervised by Production Manager and Technical Director Fritz Bennett.
“It started as a way of showing students that they could use the skills they were learning within the theatre department and take those same skills and use them in another field that is closely related that uses a lot of the same technology,” Bennett said.
The UIndy technical theatre students are used to running sound and lighting in the same three spaces for drama productions, but the GPS events allow the students to get off the stage and into unique situations with an assortment of events.
“We [GPS] have done everything from comedians, to debates, to dinners the president has had and the midnight breakfasts,” said senior and GPS manager Melinda Arthur.
With the ability to transform typical spaces into unique event spaces, the program has worked with many different organizations on campus. One such collaborative event happened this past October, when GPS was called upon by the Student Business Leadership Academy to design lights, music and a runway for its annual fashion show.
“I got to help design lights with Fritz for that. That’s something I’ve never done. I’ve never designed a fashion show, and I never knew how much went into it. There are so many other factors and variables you would never think of,” Arthur said.
Arthur and the other GPS students realized quickly that design for an event is a very different process than designing for theatre. Each project presents students with new hurdles that include dealing with clients in a professional manner.
“Teaching the students how to interact with clients and work under that pressure to make it work in the moment is part of the overall goals,” Bennett said.
The experience of facing new challenges does not stop at events on campus. In September, GPS provided audio and technical support for the ribbon cutting and streetscape dedication event in the Irvington neighborhood of Indianapolis. This outdoor venue presented a whole new set of challenges for the students to tackle.
“Outside venues are a great experience, but there are so many variables. When you are doing sound, you just want to hear the person talking. You don’t want to hear 500 cars going by, so you have to fiddle with that,” Arthur said.
Bennett says it is frustrating variables such as outdoor venues that help strengthen the GPS students. Being able to use what they have in the space provided while still meeting the client’s needs creates more successful and marketable technicians.
“Both the event and concert industries and the theatre industries use a lot of the same technology, but it’s sort of used a little bit differently. So it allows them [students] to learn things more in depth and be stronger in using those skill sets, whether it be theoretical or technical,” Bennett said.
Overall the creation of GPS has given students in the UIndy Department of Theatre a leg up on finding a job after college. Arthur pointed out the advantages GPS has brought saying how students no longer need to worry if they are unable to find jobs in a theatre because they are now trained to handle corporate events and concert venues as well.
Expanding the Department of Theatre from only using the stage to all types of events has prepared the technical theatre students for the world that lies ahead.