Performance Production


The Performance Production Department at Cornish College of the Arts is dedicated to educating the next generation of designers, technicians, and artisans who will create and manipulate the magic that surrounds the actors, dancers, and musicians on the live stage.

Students seeking a career in Lighting, Costume, Scenic, or Sound Design, Stage Management, or Technical Direction are passionate about the work they want to do. The Performance Production Department at Cornish College of the Arts provides a unique environment for that student who is determined to pursue a career in the production elements of the performing arts. We are an independent department, not a wing of one of the other departments; decisions about curriculum and production issues are made by professionals in your own field. We tailor the training program to your needs, whether your goal is to be a designer, stage manager, technician, or artisan. In the classroom you will find an atmosphere open to curiosity, encouraging exploration to the limits of expression. Classroom work exposes you to the traditional tools of the trade: from perspective drafting to the techniques of pattern making, from basic electrical theory to the use of the computer in the sound studio. Beyond the classroom, you will be immediately engaged in the work of a busy production company, building and staffing seven main stage productions of the Dance, Music and Theater departments each year. Both in the classroom and in production, you will work with and learn from a faculty of accomplished designers and artists who are practicing professionals in the Pacific Northwest production community.


The faculty of the Performance Production Department is committed to the concept of collaborative work among artists in the performing arts. Students experience this process both in the classroom and through their practical design and technical production work for the main stage productions of the Theater, Dance, and Music departments. For the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Performance Production, students may choose to pursue one of the following six concentrations: Costume Design, Lighting Design, Scenic Design, Sound Design, Stage Management, or Technical Direction.

Performance Production Concentrations


It is said that if you can’t see an actor, you can’t hear the actor. Perhaps, but Lighting Design is about so much more than illumination. Without the Lighting Designer, the work of the other visual designers becomes invisible. It’s the Lighting Designer who reveals (or conceals) the world of the play, establishes the time of day, the time of the year, possibly even the geographical location. A lighting cue may establish movement, passage of time, motivation of characters, and a wide range of emotional states.


The Scenic Designer is a true magician, transforming a tiny empty room into a vast open field, then in just 30 seconds converting it into a castle great room, or a third floor walk-up flat in the city. Not just any city, but New Orleans, in the summer, in 1935. Knowing how to create what you need, and not one thing more or less than you need, to help the audience enter into that “willing suspension of disbelief” that allows the performers to exist in the world of the play, instead of just trudging across an empty stage.


Wind howls across the bleak landscape, thunder is heard in the distance, the sound of footsteps becomes audible as the lights fade up from black. In just 20 seconds, in the dark, before any actor is on stage, the Sound Designer has transported the audience into the world of the play. Sound has such a visceral connection to the human psyche, the audience may even shiver when they hear that cold wind, and they can tell what direction those footsteps are coming from before they see the actor approach.


At the hub of every production, connecting the actors with the director and designers and technicians, the Stage Manager is the most informed and the most necessary member of the team. Stage Managers make it all happen, they call the cues, organize the meetings, support the cast, assist the director, and control the flow of information. A good Stage Manager can make the most hectic and complex technical rehearsal a thing of joy and beauty to watch.


There is a standing joke among Technical Directors that they are pretty much invisible until something goes wrong. The fact is that the art of the Technical Director is the most all-encompassing in any company. Turning the ideas of the Scenic Designer and the rest of the production team into real, solid stage scenery that supports the performers and does the necessary tricks is immensely satisfying work. Successful completion of almost every single phase of moving the production into the theater and putting it before the audience depends on the work of the Technical Director.

Performance Production Degree Requirements

Performance Production Model Program

Model Programs are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s model programs for this program. Students should refer to the model program that was in effect for the year and term of their entrance to Cornish. View archived catalogs and model programs.

Performance Production Learning Outcomes

The following learning outcomes are identified by the Performance Production Faculty as essential for graduates of the program. The curriculum is designed to guide students in their active pursuit of these outcomes.

  • Broad knowledge of the practice, theory and history of all concentrations within Performance Production.
  • Skilled in craft, methods, and use of materials of technical production/design.
  • Thorough command of the practice of research, and the ability use and adapt information to specific projects.
  • Ability to think critically about and discuss the historical and social context of the performing arts.
  • Ability to communicate about their work in oral, graphical, and written form.
  • Ability to present their work effectively in group settings.
  • Ability to articulate a personal aesthetic.
  • Capacity to integrate learning across disciplines.
  • Capacity for self-assessment.
  • Ability to participate in and productively respond to critique of work.
  • Respect for and ability to participate in the collaborative process.
  • Understanding of and ability to practice basic project management skills.
  • Demonstrates a strong and consistent work ethic.
  • Demonstrates a clear understanding of professional ethics and decorum.

Faculty & Staff


  • Ronald Erickson, Interim Chair
  • Greg Carter, Interim Chair
  • J Richard Smith
  • Carl Bronsdon
  • Peter Dylan O’Connor

Adjunct Faculty:

  • Carl Bronsdon
  • Melanie Burgess
  • Kathleen Collins
  • Katherine Davis
  • Julie Gaskill
  • Brendan Hogan
  • Jennifer Lupton
  • Richard Schaefer

Core Faculty:

  • Greg Carter
  • Ronald Erickson
  • Peter Guiles
  • Roberta Russell
  • Matthew Smucker
  • John Kendall Wilson
  • Ben Zamora