Projecting for Impact
When the Williston Theater staged The Laramie Project in October 2018, set designer and technical theater teacher Charles Raffetto employed the technology known as projection mapping to display video precisely within the outline of a town map of Laramie, Wyoming. For the production of Into the Woods that spring, he used the technology to project custom-rendered images onto irregular shaped panels as they moved across the stage.
Mr. Raffetto, who also teaches visual arts in the Middle School, learned how to produce these striking visuals at a week-long workshop at the Guildhall School in London, which he attended in July 2017 through a professional development grant. “Because you can manipulate the pixels so specifically, it looks like nothing else,” he explains. “All of sudden you have this thing that’s glowing or coming to life and it’s so precisely in the shape that you want it to be.”
Not surprisingly, projection mapping has become the go-to technology for making a dramatic theatrical impression, and it’s a tool that Mr. Raffetto believes students should understand. “It’s very important to me that my students in the theater have worked with current technology,” says Mr. Raffetto, who this year received the George E. and Catherine B. Gregory Instructorship (see box, right). “They’ve worked with LED lights, they’ve worked with projection mapping, so that when they get to college, they are not surprised.
And it’s exciting for our acting students, too, to be working in a show where the set is not just a couple of platforms and a doorway.”
For now, Mr. Raffetto has handled all of the complicated programming required for projection mapping, but students have assisted by creating the various backgrounds onto which the images are projected, and with setting up the equipment. “They are learning what I’m doing,” he notes, “even if so far they aren’t actually making any content themselves.” That may soon change, however. Mr. Raffetto says he hopes to introduce the technology on a small scale into his Middle School visual arts curriculum in the coming year.
After earning his master’s degree in media and performing arts from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2002, Mr. Raffetto taught at Savannah as an adjunct professor and then worked at Northfield Mount Hermon School before arriving at Williston in 2010. Having attended St. Andrews, a small independent high school in Delaware, he knew early in his career that he wanted to teach theater at a boarding school, a result of the powerful impact his school environment had had on him. “I saw the kind of community I wanted to be in,” he explains. “I wanted to teach and work in a community where we all support each other.”
Appreciation of community also influences Mr. Raffetto’s choice of other professional development opportunities: he attended a gender diversity conference last year and plans to attend a people of color conference this December.