Madsen Brings Expertise and Mentorship to All of ShakesFear | Nebraska today
J.D. Madsen has a unique recruiting tool for the Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film’s Set Design program.
“That’s me,” said Madsen, director and associate professor of scenic design. “Boy, it’s selfish, but it’s my will to be here with their, for them and to help their. Yes, we have cool toys, we have money and support and we can do great things, but the best recruiting tool I have is that I know them, because I have to know them to help them.
It exemplifies Madsen’s passion for mentoring University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, which he brings to the set of shows like ShakesFear. Madsen, an esteemed designer, guides students through their journey from apprentice to master with a student-defined model of success. When he’s not tutoring students and teaching, he can be found working in industry, spending time with his wife and children, playing golf, or pursuing one of his other hobbies of design such as game design.
“ShakesFear is a fun, weird beast,” Madsen said. “It allows students to explore design ideas beyond traditional approaches. We don’t do a lot of public autonomy where they can walk around a space or touch things so those aren’t the things that our students usually think about, although it will be issues that they will encounter in various entertainment industries when they leave. So having a project like this allows us to show them how it works and brings them a lot of value. »
Taylor Walters-Riggsbee, a third-year stage design graduate teaching assistant, found immense value on the set of ShakesFear as an assistant designer.
“I worked on the design of the Catacombs,” she said. “It was my first time working on a haunted house and I had the opportunity to try new materials and techniques. I was also able to work closely with my peers and my teacher as a fellow designer and there were so many learning opportunities to be had. There were many days where I felt like I was fulfilling my dream of being a “real designer”.
Madsen, the co-lead designer of ShakesFear, along with his former student Jill Hibbard, tailored the students’ ShakesFear roles to their experiences and interests.
ShakesFear, now in its second year, is a theatrical haunted house centered on the search for one of Shakespeare’s lost plays. Madsen and Hibbard have broken down the ShakesFear set into chunks that correspond to the students. Each student was responsible for one piece of the puzzle, while Madsen and Hibbard were responsible for cohesion and the overall experience. For example, an undergraduate student was assigned to the Midsummer Night’s Dream area while a graduate student was given a new part of the experiment that would require more development.
“Then these students would design or pitch ideas or try something new and then come up to me and say, ‘Is this the right path’ and I would say yes or give grades,” Madsen said. “So my job is kind of to make sure there’s an artistry and a consistency through the thing that makes it feel like it’s a United human experience, even though it’s been split into these small pieces.”
Tailoring the student experience is one of the ways Madsen prepares its students for success through mentorship. On the set of Shakesfear, Madsen supervised three graduate students and nine undergraduate students in set design. In the program, there are 14 graduate students and 30 undergraduate students. Madsen gets to know each of his students and dedicates time to nurturing and mentoring their talents, which he considers essential to his work as an educator.
“I have a theory in my mentoring and counseling that’s called a student-centered success model,” he said. “Students have to tell me what success means to them and then I’ll help them get there, rather than a mentor-driven model of success, because I don’t want to tell them what success should look like in their lives and their careers, but I want to help them succeed.
Madsen’s mentorship is felt and positively recognized by his students. Walters-Riggsbee felt that Madsen was one of the few people unafraid of his educational interests. She felt that the additional educational experiences Madsen and other teachers provided led her to opportunities such as working with Meow Wolf and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
“J.D. tailors its mentoring to the needs of its students,” Walters-Riggsbee said. “He listens to their goals and aspirations to develop a plan for their education. It’s there to make us the best humans, not just the best artists, that we can be and keeps us on track with the goals we set for ourselves. He wants us to feel like we can handle any challenge that may come our way in the future.
When Madsen came to college nine years ago, he brought over 20 years of experience designing sets and environments, with much of his time spent on well-known stages. He earned his master’s degree in scenic design at the University of Maryland, where he later taught 3D drawing and previews before coming to Nebraska.
While in Nebraska, Madsen continued to enjoy teaching, mentoring, and flexing her own creative muscles. In addition to his time with family and friends, Madsen stays busy as an expert in his field with ongoing work on shows around the country and overseas, including vacation experience in Hong Kong. and training with Punchdrunk in London. When not working with set design, he pursues his passion for all kinds of design, especially analog game design.
The work of Madsen, Hibbard, design students and more can be seen at Nebraska Repertory Theater’s ShakesFear through October 30.