Brotzman takes on joint-campus course with theater tech

September 22, 2022 — by Christopher Chen
Photo by Dragon Neal
Los Gatos’s stage classroom, with desks and a projector set up.
Drama teacher Benjamin Brotzman has also left his role as manager of the McAfee Center and is now teaching full time, advising SHSTV and teaching MAP classes.

Every Blue Day after 4th period, stage tech teacher Benjamin Brotzman uses a school van to drive eight students to Los Gatos High for a combined theater tech class.

The stage tech class was combined this year due to low enrollment in Saratoga High’s theater tech course and high enrollment in Los Gatos’s. The Saratoga students join 26 Los Gatos students to form the class. 

Brotzman proposed this solution after helping the Los Gatos drama department last year, when advanced drama and stage tech were rolled into a single, difficult-to-manage class period.

Because the class now involves Los Gatos students, Brotzman had to adjust the curriculum of the course. His students worked on set pieces and other design elements for Saratoga productions last year.

“Instead of working directly on the Saratoga High fall play or the spring musicals, I am just really going deep into each individual section area of tech,” Brotzman said. Then, he plans to lead the class through doing all the design work for a play the class reads through.

Besides necessary curriculum adjustments to accommodate both schools, Brotzman’s unfamiliarity with the Los Gatos scene shop was also something to adjust to.

“I’m not used to working there,” Brotzman said. “Each and every day when we go, I don’t know what’s going to be there, what the layout’s going to be or if it’s going to be different. So that’s been a bit of a challenge, walking into someone else’s classroom on someone else’s campus.”

Although Brotzman has experienced difficulties with teaching away from SHS, some students are seeing benefits of the class.

Senior Dragon Neal said that although transportation is a hassle, they find it interesting to see the Los Gatos theater.

“Meeting and working with other students to learn at a place I don’t know has already been eye opening,” Neal said. “Having worked in one theater, getting to learn in another is an amazing opportunity.”

On top of the newly revised theater tech class, Brotzman has also taken new roles this year: advising the SHSTV broadcast class and teaching Media Arts Program seniors’ media labs class. Teacher Joel Tarbox has taken over the art courses previously taught by Diana Vanry, who retired this year, and Brotzman is doing the SHSTV role held by Alex Hemmerich last year.

Both classes focus heavily on video editing and other digital media, which is a good fit for Brotzman, whose college studies included broadcast and filmmaking. Having experience with creating advertisements and similar video projects, he finds both classes a good opportunity to refresh his skills in video production. 

With SHSTV’s student-driven nature, his role is mainly to advise and ensure the production is going in a “coherent and ethical” direction that reflects the school district’s culture.

According to SHSTV head producer senior Adam Xu, Brotzman is essentially “everything we as a team would want out of an adviser.”

 “Mr. Brotzman’s given us a lot of space to run the class freely and to lead story production while also providing vital feedback to individual students and during studio days,” he said.

Taking on these two additional courses, Brotzman has transitioned into full-time teaching, and his role as McAfee Center manager has been filled by Christine Schwanhausser.

“Last year, I taught two classes and I ran the McAfee Center, and that split between teaching and running the center was much more stressful, because they are two totally different things,” he said. “This year, I’m able to completely focus on teaching, leading the drama department and helping with MAP, and that’s been much clearer.”

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