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Release Date: 
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

HFCC Theater Program Receives National Recognition

HFCC Theater Program Receives National Recognition

Henry Ford Community College’s Theater Program has received national acclaim for its innovative virtual theatricality lab. HFCC received a Bellwether Award as one of 10 finalists from across the nation at the 2008 Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, sponsored by the University of Florida’s Institute of Higher Education, in the Instructional Programs and Services category. HFCC was one of 30 community colleges present at the assembly.

HFCC was honored for innovation in its associate’s degree theater program for developing and integrating virtual animation into live theater productions, according to George Popovich of Howell, HFCC’s director of theater arts who pioneered the concept of virtual theater at HFCC.

The Theater Program entered its Virtual Theatricality Lab (VTL) project for the Bellwether competition, entitled 'Theater for the 21st Century and Beyond,'which is a creative way to stage theater productions involving live animation, said Popovich. HFCC was selected as a finalist from more than 400 community colleges across the nation, according to Popovich.

This is the first time that HFCC has been nominated for this award. HFCC won the League for Innovation in the Community College Award in April 2007 for its VTL as an innovation in learning and teaching, and that win led to the nomination for the Bellwether Award.

Working with Popovich on virtual theater productions are Gerry Dzuiblinski of Southfield, stage technical director; E. Alan Contino of Dearborn, chief engineer; Brian Johnson of Wyandotte, animator and motion-capture technologist; and Lori Beltaine of Wyandotte, motion-capture performist.

To incorporate virtual reality into the live production on stage, three screens are used that portray the background images of the story.

Between 50 and 70 HFCC students, who are actors, stage designers and technicians, work on the VTL project every year. According to Popovich, it takes the group one and a half years to plan a production.

HFCC is one of only three colleges in the country to have a VTL, and HFCC has been staging virtual productions the longest of any college, since 2001. According to Popovich, HFCC’s VTL is unique because students have access to all the technology and learn all aspects of running the VTL.

For more information about HFCC Theater, please contact Popovich at 313-845-6478.