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OU Helmerich School of Drama student receives Richard Hay Undergraduate Scene Design Award

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Cosi fan tutte

OU's production of "Così fan tutte" was directed by William Ferarra and featured the scenic design of Clíona Smith, the costume design by Emily Cejka, and the lighting design of Richard Sprecker. 

Clíona Smith, a scenic design senior at OU, was awarded the Richard Hay Undergraduate Scene Design Award at a recent competition hosted by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) for her portfolio. 

Her submission consisted of three of the shows she designed — “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” “Così fan tutte” and “Cabaret” — a theoretical design and some of the model building and artwork used for the shows.

According to the USITT website, the award honors a college student who displays “a strong sense of design aesthetics and competency in a wide variety of scenic design-related skills.”

Smith said she first found her interest in theater design through her love of architecture — noticing little details on buildings — and while it was something she wanted to study further, she found herself drifting away the deeper she got into it.

“I was more interested in creating new things and recreating old things than what modern architecture seemed to me,” Smith said. “That’s when my sister told me I should join the high school theater group, and I’ve been a part of theater ever since.”

Seth Gordon, director of the Helmerich School of Drama, said the school is proud of Smith in a press release.

“This award is among the most prestigious and competitive a design student can receive in this country,” Gordon said in the release. “USITT is the main service organization in the design and technology field, and so for Clíona to receive this just as she enters the profession is a wonderful affirmation of her talent, hard work, and skill.”  

Smith’s portfolio will be on exhibit at the upcoming USITT Conference and Stage Exposition, which is taking place virtually this year from March 8-12.

Smith said that the most satisfying part of her work is seeing the end result for the first time.

“In the design process, I build models of what the set will look like. I render it, but it’s never quite as real as sitting in the theater and seeing it all,” Smith said. “There’s a really magical moment on the first night of the first dress rehearsal, when the actors walk on stage, and they’re in costume, and they’re fully lit, and the set is finished. You see it all come together. That is an incredible moment.”

More of Smith’s work can all be viewed at her website.

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