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    Justin Smith holds Betty, a lamb he purchased for the spring 2014 production of "Gypsy." (Photo of Daniel Dumitru)
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2004 graduate returns to Southwestern after gaining experience in theaters from California to Rhode Island

During his time as a student at Southwestern, 2004 graduate Justin Smith was incredibly involved in the Theatre Department both onstage as well as behind the scenes. He was an actor, a singer, and even directed a main stage show, but his true passion was designing and building sets.

“I was always building,” Smith said. “The Theatre Laboratory Practicum for scenery I took with Desiderio Roybal and Don Day is why I’m here today.”

Today, Smith is the Technical Director for the Theatre Department and teaches the same course that inspired his own career.

After graduating from Southwestern, Smith played Cat in the Hat for “Seussical the Musical” at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston. He then came back to Southwestern as the Master Electrician for the Theatre Department for one season and once again fell in love with university life. After the season ended, Smith worked at several different jobs across the country before landing a position as the Technical Production Coordinator for Round Rock ISD’s Performing Arts Center, where he stayed for two years.

Wanting to continue his education in technical theatre, Smith attended the University of Virginia for three years and graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts hoping to once again return to work at a university. It would be some time before he found his way back to Southwestern, though. After graduating, Smith found himself working as a carpenter for the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, which was his first taste of professional theatre.

In August 2012, Smith was offered a position as an Assistant Technical Director at the Zach Theatre in Austin, where he had the opportunity to really grow professionally. “Paul Flint and the production team at Zach Theatre are amazing,” Smith said.

After proving himself to be a hard and diligent worker, Smith was promoted to Technical Director, where he continued learning and growing in technical theatre. His only reason for leaving the Zach Theatre was because the position he currently holds at Southwestern became available.

“I knew what level Southwestern was at when I left…and I felt that I already had a lot of experience to help maintain that level if not increase it,” Smith said. Since being hired in the fall of 2013, Smith has returned to being active in the Theatre Department once more, this time on the other side of the fence as a staff member and instructor. He even purchased a lamb named Betty for the spring 2014 production of Gypsy who has become a popular visitor to the Fine Arts Building.

“A big part about what I look for in a job is if I believe in what I’m doing there,” Smith said. “It’s really, really great to be here and to be working with such an amazing department. The energy here is what inspires me to keep going every day.”

−Daniel Dumitru