Theater student on fire

September 20, 2012


Jake Guinn auditions in the upcoming Stone Theatre production “KAB Man.” – Photo by Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay

Pyrotechnic experience gained during summer internship


Staff Reporter


This is the first in a five-part series on the unique experiences of Tech students who participated in summer internships. Each of the students left Ruston to get first-hand experience in their respective fields.


For many students, summer is a time to kick back, relax and pack as much non-school related fun into those three months before the fall quarter commences.


However, for senior theater major Jake Guinn, the summer became a green light for adventure filled with travel, outstanding facial hair and 17th century style sword fighting.


Guinn, son of the 15th fight master within the Society for American Fight Masters and Louisiana Tech’s Director of the School of Performing Arts, Professor Mark Guinn, began following in his father’s footsteps at the age of 12.


“I took an interest in it when I was younger,” Guinn said. “There’s nothing better to be doing than playing with swords. I’d rather be a swash-buckling pirate than a bookworm.”


Looking for experience beyond the classroom, Guinn traveled outside of Louisiana and worked with four theaters over the summer.


Starting off in Cherokee, N.C., Guinn worked for eight weeks as the assistant fight director where he taught stage combat and served as head pyrotechnician. He also instructed actors how to properly handle firearms. As head pyrotech, Guinn said part of his job was to build and discharge various pyrotechnic effects throughout the shows.


“It was a really fantastic experience,” he said.


After leaving North Carolina, Guinn said he traveled to Beckley, W.Va., where he worked at the Theater of West Virginia.


In the summer of 2011, Guinn served as the head pyrotechnician at the theater.


He said he revisited the theater this past summer to serve as consultant.


Guinn later joined his father in Boone, N.C., where he assisted with a stage combat workshop.


Through the use of various prop weapons, advanced students were taught the advanced stage combat theory techniques.


Shortly after, Guinn moved to Kentucky where he lived and studied with fight master Drew Fracher, the No. 1 student of a founding member of the Society of American Fight Directors.


“He’s kind of like the grandfather to a lot of the teachers and even a lot of the fight masters who are now really big names in the industry,” said Guinn.


Nestled in the hayloft of a barn on Fracher’s Kentucky farm, Guinn studied 17th century texts on swordplay and European martial arts to help develop choreography for an upcoming production at two-time Tony Award-winning regional theater Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.


“They were doing an adaptation of the Three Musketeers, so lots of fights, big set,” he said. “Total fun right? Fantastic facial hair, by all of the men! It was great! I was so jealous of all the mustaches.”


Along with studying 400-year-old swordplay techniques and marveling over majestic mustaches, Guinn said he worked as assistant fight director alongside the new artistic director from Washington, Blake Robison.


Aside from being raised in the profession, Guinn said he began exploring outdoor drama in 2002, working in Blue Jacket in Ohio, Horn in the West, and eventually the Theater of West Virginia.


Unlike some majors where classes provide a majority of material needed to qualify for a job after graduation, theater requires not only experience outside the classroom but connections and strong contacts within the industry.


“The resume does so much for you but ultimately it’s like, ‘Hey man I need a job, do you have a position for me?’” Guinn said. “Ultimately, in the theater world what it is, is work experience.”


Though Guinn did not earn any college credits for his summer’s work, as a graduating student he said he gained something more valuable: real-life experience.


In a competitive industry such as theater, Guinn said, graduating from the right school provides connections but nothing may replace real life work ethics gained from having to create such contacts.


“We as students have to actively go out and find work which in a way makes us more valuable because, though we may not come out with the credentials, we come out with a work ethic that is somewhat unparalleled by those other people,” he said. “Even if they may be slightly more talented, we can work a damn lot harder.”


Email comments to mag043@latech.edu.


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