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Making a Scene

Master’s student Trevor Dotson found a left-brain, right-brain balance and brought functional creativity to the theater world.

Research  |  Oct 4, 2018  |  By Nevena Cvijetic
Trevor Dotson

 

Trevor Dotson has brought his love of architecture to theater set design. (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)

 

Editor's Note: 

The Graduate College is hosting the third annual Graduate Showcase on Oct. 12, highlighting some of the best and brightest students from across campus who have competed for the opportunity to present their research at this event during UNLV’s Research Week.


The Graduate College is hosting the third annual Graduate Showcase on Oct. 12, highlighting some of the best and brightest students from across campus who have competed for the opportunity to present their research at this event during UNLV’s Research Week.

It might not seem typical for an architecture undergraduate to enter the field of theater, but it actually makes perfect sense. Trevor Dotson, a Master of Fine Arts student in theatre, applies his functional architecture background, mixes in some creativity, and ends up with cutting-edge theatrical designs.

Merging Two Loves

“I loved the creative side of architecture and I loved theater so I wanted to merge the two,” said Dotson. “Theater is the culmination of the scenic design and art in architecture.”

Dotson will present his groundbreaking design at the third annual Graduate Showcase on Oct. 12. He designed six fully functional showers that were utilized by actors on stage for the Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s production of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out.

“Many of the big productions with large budgets, such as Cirque du Soleil, have water incorporated in them, but being able to do that in a traditional setting such as a play is innovative and unique,” said Dotson.

He considered many factors when creating the technical side of the design. In addition to figuring out details such as where the water would come from and where it would drain, Dotson had to consider the vulnerability of the actors.

“The actors were nude. I had to make them feel as natural and comfortable as possible in a fragile state,” he said.

New Insight

Dotson’s work is driven by his belief that theater is a way for audiences to gain perspective on different, sometimes unexplored, topics.

“This play talks about homosexuality, a taboo topic in 2001. It’s about a character that is in a hyper-masculine environment and him coming out to his baseball team. Now, they have to shower and work with him, and theater allows the audience to see a different viewpoint of a topic they may not have had before,” he said.

Different perspectives have a powerful influence on the quality of scenic design too. Dotson’s openness to collaboration only enhanced his already powerful design.

“I initially wanted to create the showers in a way that put a barrier between the actors and audience and put the control of vulnerability in the actors’ hands; but my director, Andrew Paul, said that it’s important to see them vulnerable because the main character was vulnerable,” he said. “I would have lost out on the insight if I had not worked with him.”