Experiential learning encompasses any activity in which a student is actively engaged in their education inside or outside of the classroom. At Trinity, experiential learning includes undergraduate research opportunities inside and outside of the classroom, volunteer experiences, internships, study abroad opportunities, and more.

By Allyson Mackender –

In a recent interview with junior theatre major Allie Butemeyer ‘18, she recalled a particularly impactful scene in Trinity’s recent production of Good Kids:

“There was a moment when we took out all the lights so the stage was in complete darkness. All of the actors hit the home buttons on their phone to light up their faces and in this moment the main female character sees the video of her rape. All the actors are assumed to be watching it in darkness, then we put a pale blue spotlight on the main female character as the phone lights turn off and fade into darkness again. It is haunting. It takes your breath away. It is the only way to capture the sadness of that moment.”

Allie Butemeyer '18 works at the lighting control station in Trinity's Stieren Theatre.
Those of us who have been to a production have likely had this experience- a moment in the show that gives you goosebumps and sends chills up your spine. Likely, you attributed this to the performers, score, or set. But imagine that same scene happening in a well-lit room, similar to your classroom or office. It certainly would not have the same impact. That’s where Butemeyer, the Assistant Lighting Designer for Trinity’s upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, comes in.

After taking a lighting design class with theatre professor Tim Francis, Butemeyer became involved in Trinity’s productions as the Assistant Lighting Designer. In this role, she is responsible for designing, hanging, focusing and writing cues for the lighting in the show.

“Like the rest of a show, we want the lighting to look effortless,” Francis said, “which means we have to hide the immense amount of effort put into it.”

An “immense amount of effort” may be an understatement, though. Butemeyer begins the lighting design process by researching how to operate the lighting. With this knowledge in mind, she and Francis discuss the lighting and design concept for the show, including what gobos, which are patterns on the lights, and colors they want to include. As opening approaches, the more technical and labor-intensive work begins. Butemeyer and student workers hang each light individually, lowering the lights so they are out of sight of the audience.

“It’s a balancing act,” Butemeyer laughed, “You have to pick up a heavy light, pray that it won’t fall, and pray that you won’t fall.”

Once the lights are hung, they are patched into a control board so each light can be individually controlled from a console in the theatre. Next, Butemeyer and the student workers balance more than 20 feet above the stage on a narrow lift to focus each light, ensuring that they are are getting a sharp image in the right place on the stage. With hundreds of lights in the theatre, this task is tedious and time consuming.

As the manual labor comes to an end, Butemeyer and Francis begin a process referred to as cue design. “We sit down at the computer and decide when we want one light to turn on and another to turn off for the entire show,” Butemeyer explained, “That way someone can sit at the board during the show and just press go.” This particular step requires collaboration with the stage manager, director, and other members of the production to ensure the lighting coincides with what is happening on stage.

“We don’t see the lights with the actors until the tech rehearsal, so collaboration is crucial to making sure the lights fit the aesthetic of the show,” Butemeyer explained, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an especially unique show because there are basically no limitations to what we can do with the lights. The show has magic and fairies, so that pushes the bounds of creativity for what [Professor Francis] and I can do to make the show come to life.”

Butemeyer adjusts a light on the catwalk in Stieren Theatre.

In addition to the tangible skills Butemeyer gained from this experience, its contributions to her Trinity experience have been invaluable. Trinity’s theatre department focuses on creating well rounded students who are able to pursue a career in various theatre capacities. However, this particular experience has given Butemeyer the chance to explore her specific interests, preparing her for her career goals as a lighting designer.

Butemeyer came to Trinity as an engineering major, but after three semesters changed directions to pursue a theatre degree.

“I got involved with theatre freshman year,” she recalled, “But after taking [Professor Francis’] class I thought, ‘I really enjoy this. I could make a career out of this. Why am I not doing this?’”

What’s special about lighting design, though, is that it allows Butemeyer to incorporate her expertise in electrical engineering, a testament to Trinity’s liberal arts model. “Each light has a power source,” Butemeyer explained, “You still have to draw power from somewhere so I still frequently deal with circuits.”

A Midsummer Night's Dream will run until February 25, 2017.
When asked what Butemeyer was most looking forward to this production, she stated that she is excited to see how the minimalistic set and costume design combine with the lights to create the aesthetic. The show, which was directed by Stieren Guest Artist Nona Shepphard, is meant to imitate Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

“We have a black steps and black flats and all the characters are dressed in black,” Butemeyer explained, “We want the audience to interpret the magic and decide what it means to them.”

Trinity’s theatre department encourages everyone to attend a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will run until February 25. For information on curtain times and tickets, visit the Current Season page. Courtesy of Trinity’s Student Government Association, 500 Trinity students will receive free tickets to the show on a first come first serve basis. To claim your tickets, visit the box office the night of the production and show your TigerCard.
By Allyson Mackender –

Anyone with an iPhone is familiar with Apple’s Night Shift mode, the feature added last year allowing users to turn off blue light with promises of a better night’s sleep. However, not many of us are familiar with the significant effects blue light has each and every day. Trinity University sophomore, Logan Morrison ‘19, is researching just that.

Morrison's mentor, Dr. Jerry Hizon (right), is a primary care sports doctor. Source: medicalassistantca.com
While other students enjoyed their time off, Morrison, a neuroscience major, spent his winter break serving as a research assistant at Motion Sports MD, a family and sports medicine clinic near his hometown of Temecula, California. Supervised by Dr. Jerry Hizon, Morrison worked with two students from the University of California Riverside studying the effects of blue light blocking glasses on the improvement of insomniatic sleep patterns.

More than 30% of the United States’ population suffers from some level of insomnia, 10% experiencing severe and chronic insomnia. Research suggests that the exposure to blue light could explain some people’s difficulty sleeping. Light is received through retinal ganglion cells and is relayed to the brain through the retinal hypothalamic network to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that serves as our circadian pacemaker. As this process concludes, blue light prevents the secretion of melatonin making it harder to go to sleep and stay asleep.

A diagram, provided by Morrison, demonstrating the reception of light.
“Evolutionarily we didn’t have blue light,” Morrison explained, “There wasn’t TV, or cell phones, or tablets… Also, a lot of light is switching to LED because it is brighter and higher energy but those are pretty much pure blue light.” The modern introduction of blue light clearly has serious effects on sleep patterns. Dr. Hizon, Morrison, and UC Riverside medical students are now tasked with solving this problem.

Over the next few months, Morrison and his research partners will be testing patients with insomnia using Fitbits and blue light blocking glasses, which can be bought online for as little as $8. For two weeks, the subjects will track their sleep patterns without the glasses and then for the subsequent two weeks they will track their sleep patterns wearing the glasses from 6 p.m. until they go to sleep.

Morrison, who will be working remotely from San Antonio, will collect and analyze the data from the Fitbits, hoping to discover a correlation between improved sleep and blue light blocking glasses. “The end goal is to find data that suggests wearing blue light blocking glasses as an additive treatment method for insomnia,” Morrison said, “And I’m optimistic because I really think it will work.”
The Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses with SCT-Orange Lenses being used in Morrison's research. Source: amazon.com
When asked about the challenges faced while completing his research, Morrison was surprised by how many logistical steps must be completed to actually begin the project. After writing a research proposal and doing an extensive literature review, the UC Riverside students had to propose the topic to the Dean who then submits it to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval. Since this project uses human subjects, the process was even more exhaustive. However, this step was one of the many learning opportunities Morrison experienced while completing his research.

“The research I’m completing actually relates to neuroscience,” Morrison explained, “I learned a lot of the terminology and pathways in class so when Dr. Hizon would talk about the more scientific parts of the research I could understand them.” This exciting connection between Trinity’s courses and medical research helped solidify Morrison’s future plans of going to medical school and completing medical based research.

“I think Trinity has prepared me well [for medical school] so far because as a sophomore I already feel comfortable putting myself in a medical research environment,” Morrison added, “The skills I’ve developed here help me set myself apart from other pre-med students.”

For more information on Trinity University’s neuroscience department, visit their homepage.