Lighting the Path
Graduate brings new energy to School of Theater’s lighting design program
An examination of alumna and School of Theater faculty member Molly Tiede-Schroer’s professional accolades and success points to a mix of reasons: an excellent graduate school training program, an intense personal work ethic, and support along the way from Ohio University alumni. Our story about her OHIO experience and career path follows.
As an undergraduate at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, Tiede-Schroer became intrigued with the lighting equipment at the school’s new performance arts theater. Wasting no time, she absorbed what she could from others, from reading, and from experimenting, coming out on the other side as a self-taught lighting designer. Soon, she found herself in charge of much of the school’s lighting needs. The next step? Entering the OHIO School of Theater graduate lighting design program.
“When I arrived at Ohio University…I didn’t know how to draft a light plot or create any lighting paperwork. I had never taken a lighting class,” she explains. Tiede-Schroer worried that because her cohort members had more experience in the field, she would fall behind. But Michael Lincoln, director of the School of Theater, artistic director of Tantrum Theater, and professor of Lighting Design, was there to support her.
“[I] went to Michael Lincoln’s office all the time. Michael constantly challenged me with new concepts and worked with me to be sure I was ready to enter the professional world,” she says. “I soaked up everything he taught me, and my career wouldn’t be what it is today without him.”
Summer stock internships during grad school took Tiede-Schroer to Monomoy Theater in Chatham, Massachusetts, to the Berkshire Theater Festival in Western Massachusetts, to Broadway and off-Broadway shows, to a new musical in San Diego, California, and to a one-woman show in New Jersey.
“My third year of grad school set up my entire career,” she says of the hands-on internship experiences. “If you could meet me walking into Kantner [Hall] the first day, and out three years later, [it] was a difference of day and night. I had a passion for lighting, so I took
it and ran with it.”
With her MFA in hand, Tiede-Schroer joined Boston’s Lyric Opera for a partial season and then took positions in New York City. She credits New York’s OHIO alumni network for opening to her a number of professional doors.
“The School has a lot of successful alumni out there,” she says. “There’s even an OHIO alumni Facebook group in New York City that I was a part of for get-togethers or job opportunities. If someone isn’t able do a job, they offer it to the Ohio University family to see if anyone can take it before they offer it to someone else.”
Tiede-Schroer also began freelance lighting design work early in her career in cities like St. Louis, Denver, and Salt Lake City. These experiences and a teaching position at Utah Valley University culminated in a circling back to Athens. In fall 2018, Tiede-Schroer began another chapter at OHIO, this time as assistant professor of Lighting Design. Now, it’s her turn to train new cohorts of lighting design student-artists.
Tiede-Schroer divides her time between classes, meetings, and shop hours, during which students work on hanging lights, focusing, and work notes. She also makes a point of making herself an open resource.
“I go to student production meetings and I go to design presentations. When students are in the theater to do focus, I’m there,” she says. “I’m there from the beginning of the process to the end. I mentor students as much or as little as they want. And if they’re doing great, I’m just there in their corner if they need something.”
Lincoln says having Tiede-Schroer on faculty couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Molly’s energy, enthusiasm, numerous professional relationships, and close mentorship of our students have reinvigorated the lighting design program in a single year,” he says. “We are fortunate to have her join us in this time of growth.”
Tiede-Schroer leverages her faculty position and her freelance work to serve her students in their careers.
“All of the faculty still work professionally,” she explains. “We…bring our students as assistants on our shows, and that allows them to gain professional credits before they leave school. With the connections we have gained in our own professional careers, we are able to help our students obtain internships with Broadway professionals and at many reputable theater companies across the country.”
Tiede-Schroer personifies what it means to be a Bobcat in the College of Fine Arts: a graduate artist who comes back to teach, and support tomorrow’s alumni-artists.
Tiede-Schroer also has worked as an lighting supervisor for The Santa Fe Opera, with credits for 2012 productions of Tosca, Pearl Fishers, King Roger, and Arabella. -- Editor