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From wood shop to professor, still building forts

By Annie Goodman
On February 6, 2018

Professor of Theatre Design and Technical Directing Steven Schepker has been working at the university since 1993 doing scenic design, lighting design and technical corrections.

With an interest in wood shop, Schepker got his start in set design after visiting his friend in a play in high school.

“They were building scenery, and I was like, ‘I can do that,’” said Schepker. “So, I started in high school, and then later that spring, Six Flags was hiring. I grew up in St. Louis, and they have a Six Flags that’s open, unlike us, and I started working at Six Flags. So, I’ve been doing shows for 34 years.”

Schepker finds designing sets to be entertaining because his job changes with every set.

“That’s what’s cool about my job,” said Schepker. “It’s different every time. The style of the show, the mood of the show, the atmosphere, the time period. It’s a combination of architecture and sculpture and art, and it’s that sort of combination that makes it really interesting every time. It’s always different. No two shows are the same. I’ve done some shows three or four times. Each time it’s different, depending on the director and the space and what you’re doing.”

Schepker was non-partial when choosing a job and did not plan to be working at the university.

“When I graduated from school, I just started putting out applications everywhere,” said Schepker. “I had them in Colorado. I had them in Illinois. I had them in Connecticut. I had never even been to Louisiana, and I sent an application here, and I got an interview, and I came down. That’s how I got the job. It was not a planned thing.”

Schepker said he enjoys working at the university because it is a unique line of work.

“It’s the students, actually, that make it the most interesting,” said Schepker. “What they know, what I can give to them, what they can do, and pushing them to be as good as they can be. That’s what I find the most challenging about teaching.”

According to Schepker, his students and colleagues keep his job interesting.

“I have, over 25 years, seen a lot of people come through the doors,” said Schepker. “Working with them, it’s different every time. It’s different every day. That’s what keeps me interested. The faces have changed, but we’re still doing the same thing, and that’s what makes it interesting.”

Schepker finds the most challenging part of designing sets to be the empty page.

“That’s always just terrifying,” said Schepker. “There’s two happy days in a designer’s life, the day when you get started and the day the show opens. Everything in between there, that’s the hard part. The empty page is a terrifying thing.”

Schepker compared being a set designer to living in a fantasy.

“It’s challenging,” said Schepker. “It’s fun. When I was a little kid, I used to build forts, you know, like with pillows and blankets. Now I use lumber, steel and aluminum, and I get to build really big forts. I get to play pretend every day. How many people get to play pretend every day?”

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