Well folks, it has been several months since I have done one of these and I can’t think of anybody else right now who could handle everything thing in her professional calm demeanor and get the job done right the very first time. Not that anybody needs a refresher but we left for Spring Break last March and students are just coming back on campus October 5th as prior had all been on virtual learning. It had been a fun ride and I know my routine front and back, I can’t imagine coming on board to Fort Worth ISD and picking up the odds and ends of virtual teaching and on top of that various different preps!?!?! Well if you’ve been here long enough you’ll have more and more students return and although I knew this person’s older sister a little bit better, glad and honored to be a colleague of October’s Alumni Watch Spotlight! As we are/were virtual, I sent Ms. Vianey Salazar some questions and a couple little surprise’s for her. Welcome to Tech Ms. Salazar and all the other new teachers here at Trimble Tech.
What year did you graduate from Tech?
What was your major here at Trimble Tech?
Graphic Design with Ms. Powell
Has that changed from what you are doing now, was there a moment you knew this is what I want to do with my life?
I was always very involved in theatre, and I think early on I knew that technical theatre was what I wanted to do. There was a point near graduation where I felt a little torn between theatre and graphic design, wondering which I should pursue. Ultimately, I was very happy with my decision because theatre is a field in which I’m still able to use my graphic design skills. I’ve been able to assist in projections design for a dance show and design a program for a tour of Macbeth in the UK and Ireland. I’ve been very fortunate to work in a field that still lets me use those graphic design skills.
Was there ever a moment when you thought you choose the wrong program?
Not at all. I loved every minute of my graphic design classes. They involved a lot of hard work, but it never felt like it. Graphic design is still something that I enjoy doing on my free time (when I can find any), and some of the skills I learned there have transferred over to my work in theatre. The experience I gained in my major has made me a more versatile theatre technician and artist than I would’ve been otherwise.
Having an older sister come through Trimble Tech and the Drama department, what had you been told? Was it better or worse than you expected?
Wow, I should’ve seen this question coming. I feel like by the time I arrived at Tech, I was already familiar with the program and Ms. Penland a little bit. When I was about 9 or 10, my sister, Sarahi, had asked me to bring a suitcase of some of my mom’s clothes for the show she was stage managing. My dad drove me up to Tech and as he waited out in the car, I dropped off costumes for a rehearsal of Blithe Spirit, where I ended up sitting in the house and watching. After that, I became familiar with Ms. Penland and the theatre department. By the time I arrived at Tech as a student, I had already helped build sets and clean the prop storage room. I don’t know that I was necessarily “told” anything but rather I was fortunate enough to experience a little bit of it myself.
Surprise number one, working at Tech with our amazing family is awesome enough! Working with our AMAZING Ms. Penland has to be a privilege in itself! Having an awesome former student come back to Tech and work alongside her I reached out and asked Ms. Penland for some kinds words about Ms. Salazar and she kindly obliged:
Vianey Salazar is what we call a legacy at Trimble Tech. She is a legacy in the respect that she followed her older sister, who also graduated from Trimble Tech and was an award-winning member of our Theatre Arts department, and a true leader among her peers. But she is also a legacy in her own right. She was such an outstanding student that advanced classes were created for her while a student here. She carried a remarkable GPA while working tirelessly as a lead technician and an actor in our Theatre Department. Her skills were so remarkable in technical theatre that she literally wrote the book. She created a multi- chaptered guide to the technical aspects of our Trimble Tech Auditorium. Her guide has been used as a teaching tool by 3 other technical theatre teachers since she graduated.
She received a full scholarship to Illinois Wesleyan University and upon receiving her degree in Theatre, she went on to work in professional and regional theatres in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maine, and here in Fort Worth. She has incredible skills in all areas of Theatre Arts and is truly an asset to the Trimble Tech Faculty, Staff and Fine Arts Department. Most importantly, she is a Showdawg to her very soul. She never stopped contributing her time and talent to our Tech family through her many skills and talents, but now she has come to make an even more amazing impact on Tech and the Arts in the DFW community. She is a dream to work with and will grow her reputation as a legend every single day she is here.
And this rolls right into the next interview question, thank you Ms. Penland for your words.
What did she say when she found out you were coming back to Tech to teach and work beside Ms. Penland?
The text literally read “Lol congrats stupid,” which is very much indicative of how we talk to each other. I think I called her when this had all barely been an idea between Ms. Penland and I, and Sarahi was very supportive of it. By the time it was official and I knew I’d be coming back to teach, she was already in the loop.
Here is surprise number two that I did not tell Ms. Vianey Salazar about. See, her older student I knew fairly well as she came through as a student and was . . . . well a little bit more of a trouble maker!?!?! Sarahi, like many others, is like an adopted daughter for me and my wife and we have somewhat stayed in touch through social media so I reached out to her and informed her we were spotlighting Vianey for October and asked if she could send a message I could put in the article and she was happy to do so:
Most students at Trimble Tech get a whole Spring Break off. When you’re a Showdawg you show up to rehearsal the last 2 or 3 days of that week. It was my sophomore year, we were rehearsing Antigone for UIL. I was babysitting Vianey and couldn’t leave her at home, so I brought her to rehearsal. I gave her some books, she loves to read, and sat her in the 3rd or 4th row and told her not to break anything. About an hour or so later we were about to go into a run through and I vividly remember this 10-year-old kid sitting in awe of all the commotion. There were people getting into costume, lights were being tested, sound effects were going and she just sat there in complete amazement. Well, the rest is history.
Vianey didn’t instantly pursue theatre, but it pursued her. She kept coming to my rehearsals and started asking questions so I put her to work. By the time she entered Tech as a freshman she was in it. She wanted to know everything about lights and how they work. The technical process fascinated her. So much, that she made a career out of it. She studied it vigorously at Illinois Wesleyan University and even more when she started working professionally. She’s an extremely hard worker and appreciates every opportunity given to her. I’m so happy that she’s back at Tech sharing her knowledge and talent with the future of our industry. As an industry professional myself, I can’t stress how important it is to have an educator that has professional experience; and Vianey has plenty of it. I don’t tell her often but I’m extremely proud of everything she’s accomplished at her young age. I can’t wait to work with her again, not only as a former colleague but as her big sister.
Thank you Sarahi for your comments, next time you are in town please swing by or give me a shout would be nice to catch up. Now back to the questions.
What was your favorite drama memory while here at Tech?
So, I think I have to say when sound system absolutely died in the middle of our final performance of Zombie Prom, which was a musical with a rather large cast for those who don’t know the show. And the sound system didn’t just go out or shut off. About 10 minutes into the second act of the show, we heard some static that very quickly became deafening noise that completely affected the show. We shut down the system and tried to power it on several times but kept hearing that roaring static every time, until finally we went on with the show without it. We lost not only mics but also our communication system so there was no way to communicate from the balcony to the people backstage. Throughout all of this, the show never once stopped. It was one of those moments where despite being separated by a balcony, several flights of stairs and a house full of audience members, we all became synced and successfully pushed on with the show.
What was your favorite memory in the at Trimble Tech (not Drama related)?
I would probably say the time that I went to the Homecoming game senior year. The Theatre Department (yes, it’s kind of Drama related but hear me out) set up a station in the tailgate area where we were doing face-painting. We would paint green paw prints or full bulldog faces. Ultimately, I ended up watching the game with all my friends, and all the seniors were sitting together in the same section so it was a great class of 2014 moment. At some point in the evening, we took a picture of all of us who had come to Tech from J.P. Elder, and it was quite a few of us. It’s a really great picture, and it kind of shows our journey together. Even if we weren’t right by each other every step of the way, in a way we went through this together and saw it through to the end since we were at our senior year and so close to the finish line. I still talk to some of the people in that photo to this day on a regular basis. They’ve truly become lifelong friends.
Where you involved in any club, athletic teams?
I was briefly involved in the rugby club the first semester of my freshman year. However, theatre definitely took over my life and I wasn’t able to participate in rugby much after that first semester. I still watch matches whenever they’re in a reasonable time zone (since most tend to happen in Australia or New Zealand), and I’ve seen the U.S. play Italy in Houston. It’s an interest that I try to keep up with when possible. I also briefly participated in UIL Number Sense because I was a math nerd (but nowhere near as smart as some of my peers). As an electrician, numbers are something I constantly work with, so I can have whole conversations purely about numbers with my peers.
How was it having a former teacher stay in touch and now working along side of her? Are there any other teachers you kept in touch with prior to coming back and teaching here at Tech?
I feel like this is something that’s very common in theatre, especially with education. We work alongside our professors, teachers, and mentors, and we balance seeing them as our co-workers while also understanding that we’re learning from them. I think because of that experience and having known Ms. Penland for so long, I was able to jump into this role as comfortably as I have. I’ve kept in touch with Ms. Penland as I’ve kept in touch with some of my college professors and my co-workers from past theatres. It’s just what we do. This is how we build our networks and our communities since we freelance and travel so often, and Ms. Penland was a part of my very first theatre community. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept in touch with any other teachers, and since graduation, I was hardly ever back in Texas to be able to stop by and say hi.
What advice would you give any current students who might have a tough path and want to reach their dreams?
I want to say something cheesy like “never give up,” but instead I’ll say how to ensure that you never give up. Make sure that you have multiple paths to take or multiple doors to choose from. This can mean applying to multiple colleges, submitting multiple job applications, or making connections with multiple professionals in your chosen field. Sometimes this can just mean asking a teacher for advice about where to go next, because we might have the resources to guide you towards that door or path that you need. If this is the dream you want and have always wanted, go for it and make sure you have multiple ways of getting there. Sometimes a road might be blocked due to construction, but that doesn’t stop us from getting to our destination; we don’t go back and give up. We find another way because there is always another way. It might be a year from now, it might be in another city, it might be with another college/company, but with enough determination you will arrive.
If you could tell anything to any of your former teachers what would that be?
The first thing that comes to mind is “thank you.” Looking back, I’ve realized how each of them has shaped me in some way. I think Ms. Andreas was a little sad because I was going into theatre when I was pretty good at calculus. However, as an electrician and a programmer, I deal with numbers all day long, and I love it. I spent four years in French classes with Mr. Wooddell, and I have had to use those language skills as well. Once there was an issue with a section of a script in Portuguese, which I don’t speak. However, some words were similar to Spanish, my native tongue, and some were similar to French, a language I studied for 4 and a half years, and so I was able to fully understand this portion of the script and explain to the literary department what was wrong with it. I feel like we clearly know Ms. Penland had an impact on me and my technical theatre career, but I also want to address that in high school she had me perform quite a bit. Although I absolutely hated it at the time, it has largely helped with my public speaking or my leadership presence, and I would not have been able to run a light hang as a master electrician without those skills she gave me. These are just a few examples that I can think of the top of my head, but all my teachers have given me skills that I’m still actively using to this day, and for that I want to say “thank you,” fully acknowledging that those words can’t ever encompass my entire gratitude.
How are you liking being back here at Trimble Tech? What classes are you teaching?
So far, I’m loving it. I’m currently teaching Technical Theatre 1, 2, and 3 (all in the same class), along with Theatre Arts 1, a section of AVID, and Ms. Penland and I co-teach our advanced theatre classes (Theatre Arts 2, 3 and 4). It’s a really good mix and no two classes are the same so I’m constantly surrounded by varying levels of theatre and different projects at work.
What is your favorite thing to you do with your job/education? Here at Tech and before this time?
My favorite thing is bringing pieces of my technical theatre career into the classroom. I think it’s great to see my students doing exactly what professionals out in the field are doing right now (or were doing before the pandemic). They’re taping monologue audition tapes and doing research as props masters. I feel like many people say that theatre isn’t something that you can exactly teach because you have to experience it and go through the motions of it, so it’s really amazing that we’re still able to provide that experience in the midst of all this. My favorite thing about my job before this time was probably the sense of community from each theatre that I worked at. They each had different personalities, but due to the nature of theatre freelancing, I was usually accepted very quickly into the theatre community. Moving around so often and going from contract to contract can be very isolating, so having that community at each place that I’ve worked at has been very important for me.
What is your favorite memory/accomplishment in the career that you have experienced so far?
I feel like it’s still really early to answer this question, but if I had to choose I would say my favorite accomplishment is when we’ve (I saw “we” because Ms. Penland and I co-teaching a few of our classes) been to bring theatre into the students’ homes. We’ve asked them to build performance spaces with anything they could find as long as they had a stage and an audience layout. I’ve asked my technical theatre class to read a few pages of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and then go find me the props that were discussed in those pages. We’ve been able to show them that theatre can be made with absolutely anything and that they don’t need a huge stage and expensive costumes.
If you had your choice of plays/musicals you would like to lead the Tech Drama kids through, what would it be and why?
I feel like I’m a terrible person to ask this question to because I don’t listen to musicals constantly or know very many plays. The shows I know well are usually the ones I’ve worked on. However, I do love working on shows that ask for seemingly impossible technical scenarios. I facilitated a discussion in my technical theatre class where we read a page from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I asked them how they would create the scene with 100 squirrels attacking Veruca Salt. They brainstormed some of the coolest ideas, and I’m actually sad that we can’t make them a realization at this time. Basically, I love working on shows that are unconventional and really ask us to think outside the box as technicians and artists. I don’t think what’s important is the play or musical, but rather the technical skills and creative thinking that can be applied across any production in live entertainment.
Where would you like to see yourself in ten years time?
I feel like I almost shouldn’t answer this question. I think this year has taught me that I can’t plan my life out year by year so I don’t know how to answer this regarding “ten years time.” However, I will say that I have some personal goals that I want to achieve. I want to get back into lighting design when the industry picks back up; I really miss it. I want to continue working with theatre and on productions that deal with social justice issues. It’s something that over the past few years I’ve learned I’m extremely passionate about, and I’m still trying to navigate what that means in terms of technical theatre since it’s a largely unspoken topic in the production side. I also want to go back to school and get my master’s in lighting design and/or theatre for social justice; I haven’t quite decided yet. I don’t know when these events will happen, if they’ll happen, and if that’ll be within ten years time, but for now, these are my goals.
What are your thoughts on this virtual teaching and was that what you expected?
I feel like I kind of came into this without expectations. I’ve never formally taught before, so I didn’t have anything to base it off of. In a good way, this is the only norm that I know. So far, I think the classes have been successful. Like I stated before, we’re trying to bring theatre into these students’ homes and show them that they can make theatre with what they literally have on hand. It definitely has its challenges, but I think virtual teaching is ultimately what needs to be done to stay safe in this pandemic, so I will continue to do my best to ensure that I’m reaching every single student until this is over.
Thank you Ms. Salazar for taking time out of your very busy schedule to sit down and let us get to know you. We won’t hold it against you that in Dallas Star country you support the Chicago Blackhawks. Best wishes the rest of this year and we hope restrictions are lifted some so we can see you and Ms. Penland put together an amazing production sometime this year!
As always we are always looking for future Alumni Watch Nominees, please look at the link below for further information.