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Theatre Professor Jim Ream with Students
Ready, set design

Theatre Professor Jim Ream with StudentsWhen Jim Ream has to design a dinner theatre set that will fit into Schwitzer Student Center’s dining hall, he doesn’t have to wonder whether he made a steeple that’s too tall or a ship that’s too wide. Thanks to a software program for computer-aided design and building-information-modeling, the theatre prof has mapped the interior of the dining hall down to the last inch. He’s created templates of the dining hall and created a virtual Ransburg Auditorium, Studio Theatre, Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, and the gymnasium in Nicoson Hall, too.

Vectorworks allows him to build 3-D computer models of a space—such as Ransburg Auditorium—and to know the exact dimensions of the area. He can then start creating sets for the latest theatre production and see how they will look on stage before the crew even lifts a hammer to build them.

“I can say to the director, ‘Here’s what the set will look like from the floor, and here’s what it will look like from above,’ ” Jim explains. “And I can show the director lighting choices and different views.”

Victors over Vector

Screen shot of Vector WorksOf course, some students take to Vectorworks immediately. Others spend months hating all its complicated possibilities. But for those interested in technical design, the program can be invaluable. After learning the virtual ropes, for example, Jim’s student Aaron Selig interned at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indy and built a model of its stage, then went to West Point and built a model of its theatre as well.

Jim teaches the program in his Computer Applications in Theatre and his Scene Design classes. “I always tell my students that there’s no scale limit,” he says. “So you could model the entire city of Indianapolis.”

“It has a bit of a learning curve,” says Jim. “But it’s fun for people like me. I enjoy it!”