Nate Tomsheck

Dream weaver
Nate Tomsheck takes the stuff of dreams and makes it tangible. As technical director and assistant professor in the Theatre Arts Department, he designs and builds the sets and scenery used in the college’s productions.

Whether it’s the nitty-gritty New York slums of “Little Shop of Horrors” or the haunting interior of a Russian country home of “The Cherry Orchard,” he manages to create the perfect environment where the play’s characters can come to life.

Tomsheck, who holds a master of fine arts degree in technical design and production from the Yale School of Drama, says finding inspiration for his work can be simple – or not.

“In the process of set design, the first thing you do is read the script, then you read it again and then you read it again,” he says. “Once you have a firm understanding of the pieces that make up the play, then you start asking yourself questions – what are the director’s thoughts on the environment of the play, what are the needs of actors, what are the needs of the other designers – and you take all of these components and you start filtering it down into what the design wants to be.”

Occasionally it is based on a strong feeling.

“It could be a painting that really speaks to me, but sometimes it’s not that easy,” he says. “Sometimes you really have to research and dig and read and learn as much about the time period or the reasons the playwright wrote the play in order to find out what the design wants to be.”

Tomsheck didn’t originally go into theater to be a designer – in fact, he never planned to study theater at all.

“I did a little bit of drama in high school,” he said. “Then I went to small liberal arts college, where my initial thought was to study international business. I needed an elective that first semester. My advisor noticed that I had done some extracurricular work in theater during high school, so she stuck me in an acting class.”

It didn’t take long for the young student to realize he was where he was supposed to be.

“I figured out that I wasn’t really all that interested in pursuing business because it didn’t keep my interest,” he said. “From that first acting class, that was where I was the happiest.”

At college, he pursued both acting and technical theater, which included an “amalgamation of tech and design.

“But when it came time to apply for graduate school, there was a fine line at most of the programs between tech and design. At Yale, the tech program really fit my skill set more so than the design, so that’s where I went.”

His foray into sets and scenery didn’t really start until he came to LaGrange.

“Because we have a smaller program here, it was an opportunity to do both,” he says. “Someone who does both may have more success designing with constraints because they know the limitations and they can work with them rather than fight against them. I’ve taken several art classes just to bolster that side of myself so I’m not designing in a vacuum.”

Tomsheck has been teaching stagecraft, a course on the theoretical and working knowledge of technical theater, since his first semester at LaGrange seven years ago.

“That means I’ve taught it 14 times, so I’m getting pretty good at it,” he says with a grin.

One of his favorite things is having students who aren’t theater majors in his classes.

 “They get to see and understand that theater goes so far beyond acting,” he says. “I love teaching that class because the students walk away and say, ‘Wow, I had no idea that so much goes into a show, like construction, engineering and architecture.”

He also reminds them that they are learning practical skills that will last them a lifetime.

“I say that someday they will be wanting to buy a house, and someday they will be wanting to know how to fix things around that house. You can actually learn a lot from stagecraft because it also applies to so much that we do in our own lives.”

Learn through relationships

LaGrange College professors and advisers are approachable, accessible and available. They encourage you to explore your possibilities and focus on your individual passions.

In a recent National Survey of Student Engagement, LaGrange ranked high for active and collaborative learning. Not surprising, given that our students live in a hands-on environment, with faculty making every effort to involve them in their scholarly work and research projects.

Here, you will learn from the best. More than 80 percent of our full-time faculty members hold the highest degrees in their fields. Whether your interests lie in the arts, science, business—or anything in between—there’s a path of study waiting for you here. And our accomplished, engaging faculty will guide you along the way.