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Technical director sheds ‘light' on reasons for giving

April 22, 2003

The actors are in place, the set is immaculate, the crowds have gathered in the theatre…but there are no lights. The dancers are poised to lift their audience to new heights of enjoyment…but there is no music.

Such might have been the case at many Austin Peay theatrical and musical productions over the past five years if not for the work of Michael Sorensen, technical director for the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts.
April 22, 2003

The actors are in place, the set is immaculate, the crowds have gathered in the theatre…but there are no lights. The dancers are poised to lift their audience to new heights of enjoyment…but there is no music.

Such might have been the case at many Austin Peay theatrical and musical productions over the past five years if not for the work of Michael Sorensen, technical director for the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts.

With science fiction action figures, movie posters, toys and desktop gadgets, Sorensen's office exudes a playful attitude, and it's easy to see he loves being creative.

Sorensen started out in computer science in college, but had trouble with the amount of math required.

“I didn't care for math, and it didn't care for me,” he says.

He was a theatre minor when he was offered a full scholarship in theatre.

“I was flunking math so I thought, ‘Why not?' I was a mediocre actor, but I really took to the technical aspects of production, and that always seems to be in demand.”

He got a bachelor of fine arts in theatre with concentrations in lighting, makeup and theatre technology at Utah State.

“I was one semester away from getting a concentration in costuming, but they told me to get out,” he says, laughing.

Before coming to Austin Peay, Sorensen was assistant technical director at Arizona State University for three years. He also spent five years as a “theatre gypsy,” crossing the United States three times while putting more than 150,000 miles on his truck. During his gypsy days, he worked in jobs centering on the technical aspects of theatre, such as lighting and scene design.

One of his most memorable experiences is the six months he spent on a cruise ship.

“I didn't get to enjoy it. I had to spend too much time away from my girlfriend, so it was hard.”

However, distance must have made the “heart grow fonder” because Sorensen married his girlfriend, Amy, in 1995. The couple now has one son, Gabriel, and a new baby on the way in June.

Sorensen says that while traveling the country was fun, he enjoys the creativity and challenges his job at Austin Peay brings him. There's also one other advantage.

“Now that I'm married with children, I enjoy the stability I have here. A stable pay check is good,” he says with a chuckle. “I also enjoy campus life. Not only the students, but also the intellectuals who like to learn and grow.”

Sorensen says he likes introducing the campus to the new “toys” of his industry.

“In my field, equipment is never called machines or tools — always toys. I like introducing new toys to the campus, showing what's out there and what can be done.”

Sharing his love of theatre and “toys” is not the only way Sorensen contributes to Austin Peay. He is giving to the Peay Pride Campus Campaign.

“We need to show publicly that we are giving back. The community is supporting us so we need to show them that we are supporting ourselves too.

“There may be a misconception [around campus] that you have to give a big amount, but if people could just see what a little bit can do, they would know it is important to give.”

His grandfather, he says, was a good example of giving.

“He used to give us presents for Christmas, but he also would make donations to charities in our names, and I thought that was really cool.”

The spirit of giving has been passed down from Sorensen's grandparents to his parents and now to him. He says he will pass it to his own children.

“My wife and I believe in philanthropy. If you don't have much to give, give what little you can to help out.”

Sorensen says he looks very closely at different organizations — their missions, financial statements and what they stand for.

“It's important to give to the community and support institutions you feel are doing good work.”

Sorensen says he believes in Austin Peay and he believes in higher education that's why he donates.

“I believe higher learning is essential for us to stay on top.”