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Debra Hicks

Theatre Technician

Works in the scene shop in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center

Previously at OKCU for 15 years and as of mid-2017, back for about half a dozen years after working in professional theatre for a decade

Step into Debra Hicks’ scene shop, and you step into a different world. It’s practically a warehouse, with old signs and decorations lining the walls and supplies for making everything that turns the theatre stage into another world.

Art Parlayed 

Debra started college as an art major but picked up a theatre class and was hooked—she could make art with a purpose, surrounded by other people. She earned a BA in theatre and a master’s in technical theatre.

Life Lessons

Debra tells students, “It’s who you know.” “At convocation, look around. The people who are sitting next to you may be your future co-worker, may be your boss. Make sure you do what you need to do so you can get a job.” Likewise, she says, students who become bosses or make hiring recommendations will be able to look back and remember which fellow students worked hard. Debra should know—she can’t remember ever formally interviewing for a job. That’s made her work even harder because she knows she represents herself in her work and also the person who believed in her. 

Day to Day 

“If there’s a surface, I paint it.” Her favorite task is painting the gigantic “drops” across the entire back of the stage. Depending on the production, she translates a small rendering into the backdrop or envisions what setting will work best for the story. For The Barber of Seville, because OKCU doesn’t have a fly system, Debra suggested turning the setting into the Hotel of Seville instead of an entire city so one backdrop would work for the whole opera. 

For each show, a student is assigned to Debra. “Our department is pretty much student-driven,” she says. In their Monday meetings, OKCU employees don’t do much of the talking—students do. “That’s pretty incredible. It’s not a bunch of professors telling students, ‘Do this, do this.’ Students say, ‘This is what I’m doing.’ I’ve never been any place that’s like that. It’s a safe place for them to fail because when you fail, you learn.”

Students at OKCU practically demand to be taught, and Debra loves that. She teaches a painting class for theatre majors and the painting portion of a theatre lab class. “I like the students because they really want to be here and they want to learn.”