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The art, the craft
Dave Nofsinger joins faculty as scenic design assistant professor
For Dave Nofsinger, theatre is its own beast of the art world. There’s no other art form quite like it, he said, and there are many different working parts involved.
He has put his career focus on one of those parts: scenic design, the process of developing and building sets for plays he equates to being something of an “installation artist.”
“You create context for storytelling,” he said.
Nofsinger joined the University of Idaho Department of Theatre Arts this semester as an assistant professor teaching Scenic Design I and Scenographic Techniques. New to Idaho, Nofsinger said he was attracted to the state by the opportunity to work with students from a variety of backgrounds in a classroom setting that allowed more time and attention to student work.
Nofsinger began teaching in 1990 after finishing his undergraduate degree in art education and theatre at Goshen College in Indiana. His first job was teaching at the local high school. Over the years, he has taught for several colleges including the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California, the University of Mississippi, University of Michigan and University of Memphis. Having worked at both the high school and college levels, he said, has given him experience with students at a variety of points in their exploration.
With the first month of classes complete, Nofsinger has worked with students from many majors. With theatre students, architects and even political science majors in the mix, he said students have a lot to learn from eachother.
Nofsinger said his teaching philosophy is to look at scenic design from both the art and craft perspective. Students need to not only be able to conceptualize their ideas but to use tools to bring those ideas to life. Some students excel at different aspects of the process, he said, but there is always room for improvement and honing basic techniques.
“It’s my job to teach them drawing techniques ... how to use tools ... while accommodating that open-ended, creative thought,” he said.
Some students are being introduced to these artistic elements for the first time. The experience, he said, can often be a game-changer. Nofsinger himself explored several avenues before finding himself en route to theatre.
In college he played basketball before taking a year off school to travel Europe. He had been an avid juggler in his spare time, sometimes performing for audiences. After returning to the states, the idea of live performance became more of a viable option than basketball, so he tried out for a university play. He loved it, he said, but unfortunately did not get the part. Instead, he was given the opportunity to provide the pre-show entertainment with his juggling, to warm up the audience before the performance.
He said it was his love for performance, coupled with being raised on an Illinois farm where he learned to work with tools and different equipment, that led him to scenic design.
Because he knows the value of an expanded workset, he said he likes to challenge students in class, to take a question with a seemingly obvious answer and “spin it on its head.”
“I like to take them out of their comfort zone a little,” he said.
Nofsinger brings many experiences to the table students can learn from. He has done scenic design at the professional level for more than 50 productions for various schools and playhouses. He also was an Ostrander Award-winner in 2008 for his work on Eurydice at the University of Memphis. Ostrander Awards are given for excellence in Memphis Theatre.