Riley Woods is a senior theater major with a focus in light design. Even though Goshen is a smaller school, he feels that he has gotten a similar amount of experience as students who attend larger schools. He has been able to be a part of every single production in the Umble Center since his freshman year, mostly working with light design.
“Just the sheer amount of experience is incredible and very valuable,” he said.
He has had the opportunity to do a lot of one-on-one work with Andrew Moeggenborg, the technical director for the Umble Center. Woods points out that Moeggenborg has his master’s degree in theater and knows a lot about set work, lighting and technical things, so working with him for four years has been great.
Because there are so few students in the theater department, sometimes work falls back on students that have already put in more than their fair share of time. There are not always enough people who audition for the mainstage, and so they must call on the same people.
“Even though I want to be doing the lighting, sometimes it feels like I have to do it because currently there is not really another light designer. It’s a ton of work, but a lot of fun,” he said. “The main thing we need is more interest and more students. You can be involved without being a theater major.”
Woods’ advice to students who are interested in getting involved in the theater department is to “just go for it. Sometimes it’s not that easy, but people will help you if you’re struggling. It is an inclusive and warm environment to be in,” he said. “Even though you’re vulnerable, at Goshen, it is really a community-based major. One of my favorite things is all of the friendships and close bonds formed with classmates.”
Woods was particularly fond of his time working with the musical “Godspell” last year.
“Everybody would hug everybody, including the designers and all of the stage managers, after every single rehearsal or performance,” he said. “By the end of the process, we were all super close.”
He remembered that Paul Zehr, a recent GC graduate, had the idea of getting everyone to become close to each other because shows are better if everyone is on the same page. Zehr thought hugging would improve those connections.
In the future, Woods hopes to move to a big city like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles to network, market and get his name out there. He would like to do an internship or design job with a theater for one or two years.
“Grad school is also a possibility for the future, but it’s iffy at this point,” said Woods.
His long-term goal is to become a freelance light designer and stage manager.
Currently in his last semester, Woods is busy preparing for his senior showcase on Friday, April 21.
“Lighting is my main interest, so in my senior show I want to showcase lighting,” he said. “It has evolved into a shortened version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ told through lighting, movement and dance.”
Woods is working alongside Maggie Weaver, a senior, combining parts of his show with Weaver’s senior dance show on the same night.
Woods’ show will have very few spoken lines, told mainly through lighting and movement. One reason he chose “Romeo and Juliet” is that most people are at least somewhat familiar with the story, so he is able to take some artistic liberties that he wouldn’t be able to do as easily with other shows without losing the audience.
“It’s going to be a very great thing to have on my résumé,” he said. “Not only did I produce my own show, but I’m basically creating my own show.”
“Theater is about telling a story,” said Woods, “and lighting is one of the methods to tell that story. I like to think about lighting as creating the world that the actors inhabit to tell the story, and that’s a lot of what I like about theater.”
Woods believes that a person can do so much through theater, whether that is about creating a message to tell the audience or comic relief during a rough time.
“Theater can be so powerful,” he said, “and that’s what I want to do with my life.”