A college theater stage radiates with energy and enthusiasm of young students as they prepare for an upcoming show. Among these students, a beautiful little girl bounces in excitement as she watches the set come to life. The lights from above sparkle in her eye, and she knew in that moment that she wanted this to be her life.
This little girl is Erin Hisey, and theater is her passion. Theater was instilled in her heart and her mind as a child because her father, John Hisey, designed sets for many productions. As theater became a part of her life at age four, she loved theater and spent a lot of time hanging out with actors. According to Hisey, she “just fell into it.”
Hisey’s father is her greatest inspiration in what she does, she said, because he introduced her to her passion for theater.
“I followed in his footsteps,” she said.
The Hisey family has been in theater for more than two generations. Her paternal grandmother, Helen Hisey, wrote, directed, produced and starred in her own play as a child, and theater has been a part of their family ever since.
Hisey attended high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. She went on to complete her undergraduate degree in fine arts at New York University and her graduate degree in theater at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
“I loved my time in New York,” said Hisey about her college experience. “It was thrilling knowing that my professors were the designers responsible for the productions I saw on Broadway. We often got to take backstage tours of huge Broadway hits and see things very few people ever see. It made the theater really seem viable as a lifelong career.”
Hisey specializes in theater design and has used these skills for many different projects over the years including freelance and exhibit design. She also held the role of technical director for Theater Tuscaloosa, the college theater at Shelton State University, before being hired for the same position at the University of West Alabama.
“Ms. Hisey brings a wealth of experience from the theatrical world,” said Tim Edwards, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “She studied at NYU and had the opportunity there to get an up-close view of the Broadway scene. It’s really exciting to have someone of her professional background and experience here at UWA.”
While lighting and scenery design is her specialty, Hisey focuses on working with students.
“I love working with students,” she said. “You get a lot more creative energy with them. They are a lot more willing to try new things.”
According to Hisey, students are much more creative because they do not have to depend on ticket sales. They can use ideas to recreate classics that would not be accepted by the audience in a professional theater setting.
Working on these creative projects with Hisey has been a pleasant and educational experience according to students.
“Ms. Hisey is beyond nice and very professional, but she is also silly and a joy to be around. I will definitely enjoy having her here,” said Semaj King, a freshman minoring in theater.
However, it is not only students who love Hisey. Faculty members like Nick Davis, her faculty mentor, said she has been “a pleasure to work with.”
Hisey’s talents are not limited to theater, however. Her other passions include baking, books and travel. She loves to bake for stress relief and to relax, according to Hisey.
She has traveled abroad to Europe, Asia and South America. Hisey also worked with a theater production for the Russian National Orchestra in Washington, D.C. in the spring.
“I really love creative and artistic work. That is my favorite,” Hisey said.
This is true of her work as well as the other creative aspects of her life. Hisey also spends time doing charity work with arts organizations including art shows, art festivals and non-profit charities. She does all of the design work for the Children’s Hands-On Museum in Tuscaloosa.
That little girl on the theater stage embraced all that the bright lights, dramatic clothing and beautiful scripts had to offer. She spent her life involved in all aspects of theater, and she would advise any other student to do the same.
According to Hisey, any student with an interest in theater should give it a chance because it may be exactly what they are hoping for.
“Go ahead and try it,” she said. “One of the best ways to learn is to make mistakes. You never know what’s going to happen.”