Senior uses IST skills to help run student theater company

Sarah Rothfleisch
September 25, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Philadelphia native Brendan Eck -- senior, information sciences and technology and finance -- grew up with a love for theater.

Starting his thespian career in the second grade at the encouragement of his parents, Eck continued acting throughout his primary school years. When it was time to come to college, he wanted to find an academic path that would lead him to a successful career, while also finding an outlet for his creative side.

When he first came to Penn State, like many first-year students do, he got involved on campus in order to meet people and make friends. He joined Phi Beta Lambda, a business fraternity at Penn State, as well as the student-run theater company, No Refund Theatre (NRT).

As a first-year member of NRT, Eck dove in head-first. After playing one of the lead roles in their production of “Lord of the Flies”, Eck was awarded the title of Rookie of the Semester. Later, he received an upgrade to that title: Best Actor of the Semester. In his next year with NRT, he stepped off the stage to get acquainted with the behind-the-scenes aspects of theater production.

Being a part of No Refund Theatre provided Eck with not only a way to make a big university feel smaller, but it also provided him with a creative outlet aside from his analytical majors. He also found a way to incorporate his technology skills with his passion for the theater.

Eck was mentored by older members of NRT on the way production works, particularly the tech side of production. Now, he has been elected as tech director of No Refund Theatre, along with several other tech chairs – a natural progression from his start as an actor. While Eck enjoyed his time on the stage equally as much as his time off the stage, he notes that there’s something special about directing.

“Each are fulfilling in their own way,” he said. “But there is something else about directing a show and watching your ideas, your vision come to life on stage.”

No Refund Theatre is a creative outlet, according to Eck, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get to flex his IST skills as the tech director this year. And, as with any creative pursuit, there are problems he must tackle – but creative problems require creative solutions. During a production of "The Princess Bride," a scene that required fire was looking lackluster, and the scene needed to be reworked.

Then, Brendan and his team had an idea: instead of using red ribbon and fans, they would use confetti cannons to make the scene explode with energy. Eck acknowledged IST for giving him the skills necessary to work together with fellow crew members to solve a problem like this.

“IST has taught me a lot about, for one, the human center of design and how to communicate technology to people,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned. But IST has really taught me how to convey information in a helpful tone, and that’s really helped in my internships too.”

This past summer, Eck completed a transportation procurement internship with Walmart, and he hopes to move into government work once he graduates next May. But for now, he’s making the most of his last year with No Refund Theatre.

“We have eight shows coming up just this semester,” he said. “As tech director, I’m involved in all of them in some aspect.”

As he gets ready to move on from Penn State, he’s working to teach younger members about tech and show production as older members did for him when he was first starting out. One show he’s particularly looking forward to is “The Outsiders,” which will run Oct. 24-26 in room 111 in the Forum Building.

Last Updated September 25, 2019