Mackenzie Ellis and Sophie Resplendy Solomon

Both Graduating Design Tech Majors Found Their Passion After Their First Year of Exploration at VCU


Mackenzie Ellis entered Theatre VCU as a first–year Performance major whose tech experience in high school consisted of painting and repainting the same flats for each Garfield High School production. “I didn’t know design tech was even a career option!”  Sophie Resplendy Solomon came to VCU from Martinsville’s Carlisle High School as an undeclared first-year student. It didn’t take long for both of them to find their home in Theatre VCU’s scene shop. Mackenzie “fell in love with stagecraft” her first year here, and “volunteered for every project” before she switched majors from Performance to Design Tech. Sophie, while agreeing with Mackenzie’s “love at first ‘build’” feelings, also admits to “always questioning” her switch from undeclared to a BFA in Scene Design. Sophie explains,“It’s a challenge to juggle academic classes, design work and stagecraft. There are a lot of late nights in the design studio. But it’s a struggle I love.”


Because of her work ethic and carpentry skills Mackenzie was assigned Technical Director position for the mainstage production of The Elephant Man (February 2012) and Noises Off (September 2012).  “Both shows had welding,  and multiple stories, and of course Noises Off has all those doors!” Mackenzie said, laughing, “It was an amazing challenge to coordinate those builds.” With her work, Sophie has earned her assignment as Scene Designer for the February 2013 mainstage production of The Colored Museum. “I’ve learned so much about the reality of design. That a good design has to work for the production and the space in which it is being presented. My design for this show has gone through several generations. Communication between the director and the designer is essential – you really have to listen to make a set work.”


When asked why they chose VCU, Mackenzie remembered that the audition process at VCU was positive and supportive, “I’d already auditioned and been accepted to another program, and the experience had been so competitive. But at VCU even the other auditioning students were supportive. The whole process was so affirming.”  Sophie was attracted to the size of Richmond and its strong art scene, and especially the prospect of experiencing a variety of design techniques in the Theatre Department. “Design is the ultimate goal – if I hadn’t had the opportunity, I never would of found out that I also love make-up design as well as scene design.”


Both Mackenzie and Sophie are fourth-year students and will graduate in May. Mackenzie is looking forward to working on increasing her Sound Design skills and freelancing for a while after graduation before settling either in DC or NYC, while Sophie hopes to travel for a year before applying to grad school.  Neither feel locked into one aspect of theatre tech. “Because of decision to join Theatre VCU we’ve got the tools, the experience, and the contacts. It’s a great feeling to have so many choices.”