Tech Director comes back to his roots

By Adrienne Esposito, Staff Writer

Raised on theatre, Newman’s new Technical Director, Dan Williams, knew from a young age that his passion was in production.

Williams replaced Jamison Rhodes, who left to accept a job in North Carolina.

The Michigan native was reared in Wichita, and his mother began taking him to the theatre when he was just eight years old.

“I fell desperately and hopelessly in love with it,” Williams said.

Throughout grade school, he spent his summers participating in productions at Wichita Children’s Theatre.

As he transitioned to high school at Wichita North High, Williams found his niche constructing scenery.

Williams continued to follow this path after high school, obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre design from Tarkio College in Northwest Missouri, then a graduate degree in production design from Southern Illinois University.

In the years that followed, Williams took on an assortment of roles, fromscene painter to foam carver. He also aided in the production of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and managed pyrotechnics for Las Vegas magician, Harry Blackstone Jr. He later added stage manager to his resume, working for companies in San Francisco and Denver.

It wasn’t until he had a family of his own that Williams returned hometo Wichita.

Williams’ ties to Newman extend back to the ‘90s, when Newman was known as Kansas Newman College, where he worked as an adjunct professor designing and building scene work. He then took a job with Wichita State University as the Technical Director for 10 years before returning to Newman.

With his parents, three children, and two grandchildren residing in Wichita, he explained, “It just seemed like the right time” to take the job at Newman. In addition to familial ties, Williams noted a long-standing friendship with Newman’s Associate Professor and Director of Theatre, Mark Mannette.

“He and I are good friends, and we’ve been trying to figure out a way to work together for a long time,” Williams said.

When he’s not teaching Stagecraft or Scene Painting, Williams can be found designing and building scenery for Newman’s next theatre production or putting his cooking skills to work to raise funds for the Theatre Club.

Every Wednesday, Williams makes soup to sell for $2 outside of the performance hall in De Mattias with Theatre Club. He intends to raise enough money to take the group to the U.S. Institute for Theatre TechnologyConference in Louisville, Kentucky, this spring.

Williams says the opportunity to be involved is one of the many advantages of being a part of a small community.

He said that he also attended a small university and believes that it was integral to his training.

“I like being on a campus where all the faculty know one another and support each other,” Williams said.

Williams is working to prepare the set for “Death by Chocolate,” which will be the theatre department’s first production of the year.

Opening day is set for Oct. 12.

Photo: NEW TECHNICAL DIRECTOR Dan Williams said he is ready to work with his good friend, Mark Mannette. Kelly Mai, Staff Photographer