In March of 2015, facing my upcoming birthday, I decided it was time to think about making up a bucket list. One thing led to another, and the idea for this blog came up.

For the past six years, I have served as a judge at the Ohlone College High School Theatre Festival in Fremont, CA. The festival, which has been going for twenty-odd years by now, consists of two intense days of juried events in acting, dance, choreography, and other subjects including aspects of design and technical theatre. Over a thousand kids from all over the Bay Area descend on the college to show their work, meet people, learn from everyone else, and have fun doing it. The energy level is incredible and the festival is awesome. My judging areas have included set design, graphic design, and the Tech Olympics Build-a-Set event.

When I was invited to participate the first time, I obviously didn’t know anything about the festival. However, the professor who invited me (Matt O’Donnell, who runs the Entertainment Design and Technology program) was very clear that judges should not just “give the kids a report card,” but give them ideas as to what to do next, help them see why things worked or didn’t, and think about what they could do differently. In other words, the events were intended as learning experiences, not as contests.

I fell into this immediately, probably as a result of two years’ teaching experience in grad school and, afterwards, some adult-ed classes, but also probably from my stint as head of the design studio at a major scenic fabrication company, where part of my job was to mentor my staff. One of the best things for me at the festival was when Matt, after listening to a couple of my critiques, told me that the kids were really listening to me and understanding my points.

That was my aaaah-ha! moment.

I had some fantastic professors in college and grad school, most of whom had professional experience in set, lighting, and/or costume design and were there to teach us how to prepare for a professional career. So I figure that this might be a good time to pass on some of what I’ve learned over the years. Besides, it won’t cost me (or you) anything.

You can find out more about me and my work on my web site, www.georgefledo.net.