- You invest your time, your emotions, I guess your whole self
Miriam (27) was looking for a place where she could combine her interests and be part of an international community. She found just that as a scenography student at Norwegian Theatre Academy, where she soon will be graduating. Read the soon-to-be alumni student interview to learn more about being a scnography student at NTA.
Scenography student Miriam Myrthel Pedersen. (Photo: Privat)
Why did you choose to study scenography at Norwegian Theatre Academy and Østfold University College?
NTA is the only bachelor in Norway where you can study theatre scenography, and the school has a exciting and rich international network of teachers and students. I knew that the school used to be puppet theatre based, and since that is an interest of mine, I got excited to learn more about the school. I found that this could be a place where I could combine my former bachelor in product designs and my interest for theatre.
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How did you learn about NTA?
I learnt about NTA both from research online, and I had also knowledge about the school due to a friend of mine. Researching the school and talking to people who had taken the education, I quickly realized that this was a place where I could combine my interests, and be a part of an international community. I had at the time, already undertaken 4,5 years of study, and was happy to have some education in my backpack before starting.
"I quickly realized that this was a place where I could combine my interests, and be a part of an international community."
Miriam Myrthel Pedersen, third year scenography student NTA
What project are you working on at the moment?
Every year of the bachelor has a period called independent production, or «Indies». As we also have directed productions where you follow a more traditional way of working with an external director, the «Indies» give us a taste of the free field in theatre where we get the opportunity to work as smaller theatre companies. We get to create something from scratch, and to explore space, our estethics, forms, bodys and borders.
NTA has an interesting approach to the theatre education, and a lot of the work is interdisciplinary. I have a background working as an actor in children theatre, and have been doing that also while studying. At NTA there is no such thing as «since you are a scenographer, you can´t be on stage». The actors also contribute in the making of scenography. To try to explain it, NTA has shown me that it is not always necessary to divide the professions strictly, but to rather look at the education as a field of development and exploration where you work freely together with the individuals different background, interests and knowledge.
I am doing this years independent externally from NTA, and our work is based in Oslo and Fossekleiva kultursenter. Together with actor Rolf Mørch and musician Kjell-Inge Kamsvåg, we are developing a theatre piece for children called «drivved», witch addresses children's vivid fantasy and ability to trust in oneself. We have our specific fields, me on scenography and costume, Kjell-Inge on music, and Rolf on manuscript and acting, but we also work together and develop it together.
"All students who attend NTA has made a great effort in auditions and entrance-exams and know that they are fortunate to be chosen by many."
What is it like being a scenography student at NTA?
To be a scenography student at NTA is a very individual thing. The school focuses on developing independent artists, and my experience is that they see us as an individual, and not as a person who should fit into a specific box. In my class for example, we are six very different people, with different background, visions, abilities and interests. Some are interested in theatre scenography, others in more conceptually installation/performance work. Through the education we all get workshops and knowledge of what space and scenography can be, but we are also able to express our wishes. For my part, as interested in theatre scenography, I quite early expressed that I would like to experience a traditional sense of being a scenographer in a institution, combined with the more experimental and conceptual part of the NTA education. In close discussion with the leadership at NTA, I have among other things been able to take a semester in Zürich at the art education there to create a scenography and costume design for the graduating work of a director. I also just recently returned from a two and a half month stay in Stockholm, where I have been working as a scenography assistant at Dramaten for Serge Von Arx, who's the artistic leader of NTA.
As the leadership knows me well, and are aware of my experience and interest for what happens on stage as well as behind it, I was also asked to assist director Runar Hodne, artistic leader of the directing education at KhiO. This has been hard work, but with an amazing learning outcome. I have been able to have a double-role to really be highly involved in almost all areas of the production, from being present and assisting the director in all rehearsals, logistics and planning rehearsals in communication with the actors, producers etc, to following up on the scenography and visiting the workshops, discussion with technicians etc.
"In this sense I think NTA has been truly great in seeing each student as a person, and educating a class of six individual and different artists."
How does a typical day look like for an NTA student?
No day at NTA is the same. We have had so many different workshops, but a rule is that the morning, at least the first year, starts with morning training 08.30-10.00, and from 10.30-1700 there are classes and work. At NTA we often work around the clock, mostly because we enjoy the work. All students who attend NTA has made a great effort in auditions and entrance-exams and know that they are fortunate to be chosen by many. So it is a group of motivated people. And theatre is prosess-work, and it is hard work. Compared to many other educations, I think life at NTA is also a way of living, and it is a community.
As the only Norwegian in my scenography class, I of course had a bigger network than most when starting NTA, and with a lot of hard work I have been able to combine the studies with my job as an actor in children theatre, and doing smaller scenography jobs with my own small company. But if you are able to manage without a side job, or maybe working holidays, I would recommend this. I am not gonna lie. It is an investment to study at NTA, you invest your time, your emotions, I guess your whole self!
How is the international profile of NTA - from a student perspective?
At NTA we have some teachers working with us the whole semesters, in skills training like perspective drawing and technical drawing. To me this has been a great way to have some continuity throughout the studies. The rest of the time is workshops based, where international guest-teachers and artists from all over the world come to give lectures and workshops and share their visions and knowledge. This is very exciting, because you really get to dig deep into a theme or material, wrap it up, and start something completely else the next week. Even though the workshops are different, they are carefully curated to intertwine and work together, and I have had such great experiences and learning outcome of working this way.
And the international community where we cross borders and exchange culture, food, knowledge and time has been really something, and I am so grateful for what NTA has given me in life, as a human and as a scenographer.
" …international guest-teachers and artists from all over the world come to give lectures and workshops and share their visions and knowledge."
Would you recommend others to apply for the scenography programme - and why?
I would recommend to apply for this study program, if you are interested in meeting new people from all over the world, invest time in yourself and your work, and to learn and explore SPACE!
You graduate this Spring - what would be your ultimate scenography project in the future?
I graduate this spring, and I am lucky to finish my degree as a scenography assistent for Annette Kurz on Trilogien av Jon Fosse, with director Luc Perceval. This engagement continues also a few weeks after mye studies ends, and I am happy to take part and learn about working in an institutional theatre, as the independent project I am currently doing is more in the free field. I love the contrasts, but would be very excited if I get the chance someday to make my own scenography at a theatre. The future looks bright!
If you want to look at some more of my work during the studies, you can have a look at my website miriammyrthel.com