University profile: Dennis R. Berfield

Mechanical brain behind theater productions

Emma C. Silva
Arts & Life Correspondent

With multiple productions ahead, Dennis R. Berfield is hard at work.

Dennis is the technical director for the Department of English and Theatre at The University. As the technical director, Dennis serves as the mechanical brains behind the productions.

“In the theater world, a designer or the design teams will come up with the design, and I’ll get the draftings for it. Then it is my job to figure out how to build it,” Dennis said.

Dennis has been involved in the technical theater field since high school and in college at Lock Haven University. In fact, theater was not his original major, but his minor. He later realized that this particular area was what he truly enjoyed, declared a theater major and stuck with the technical side of things. During summers in college, Dennis worked at summer stock and professional theaters. After graduating from Lock Haven, Dennis earned his Master of Fine Arts in scenic design and technology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“I enjoy working with my hands, I like figuring puzzles out and I like working with artists on figuring out new and interesting scenic elements,” Dennis said.

Dennis enjoys his career for many reasons, particularly the lack of monotony. Every production is different, and even though a lot of the same processes are used, the set is always different. He expressed that he enjoys the changes in his job and creating an environment for the characters of the shows. He also said that he enjoys the presence of good messages in the arts and the creativity involved with it all.

He is a part of the Scranton Player’s Council, an organization that meets weekly, where projects and events happening that month are discussed.

“The organization is really driven by the students. The faculty and myself are merely the guides,” Dennis said.

The upcoming production, “God’s Ear,” written by Jenny Schwartz, is an abstract story that involves the loss of a family member.

“Any time an event happens in someone’s life, your brain is absolutely rattled. This show is kind of an opening into that rattle and that inner monologue that people may go through,” Dennis said.

Dennis saw the design run a few nights ago with the director and the rest of the production team, and he feels the students are doing a great job.

The show opens Thursday with the house opening at 7:30 p.m. and the show beginning at 8 p.m. It should run for about one hour and 15 minutes. The productions are open to everyone, and tickets can be reserved at the box office or bought on the night or day of the show.

Dennis said that the small size of the theater program is both good and bad.

“It’s good because all of our students get a fair amount of exposure in all of the areas, but one of the bad things is that we’re not very well-known, even on our own campus, and the level of theater we do is really good,” Dennis said.

Despite the fact that the theater program is not very well-known on campus, Dennis feels that in the past two years involvement has increased.

“We are getting new faces working in the shop, we have new faces coming out for auditions and even in classes we have non-majors who find it interesting, and it benefits them because some of the theater classes credit to their discipline,” Dennis said.

Dennis said that students do not have to be theater majors to be involved in the productions. Students can have no prior experience in any of the aspects of production and still participate in areas such as acting, technical production, wardrobe, lighting or sound. Dennis said that if someone has never held a hammer or screw gun, he or she is still welcome, and that auditions are open to anyone.

“The theater is a safe place to express yourself and to express your ideas … any and all are welcome to come out and try it,” Dennis said.

Feb. 27, 2015

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