HAMMOND — When millions of television viewers tune in for the NFL Super Bowl in New Orleans, they will witness the artistic design and technical accomplishments of Southeastern Louisiana University graduates and faculty.
For several weeks, Theatre Professor Steve Schepker worked with his former student, Michael Kramer, the senior designer with New Orleans-based Solomon Group, to put together the nine stages that CBS has been using in its coverage of Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The network broadcasted a multitude of shows last week from various sites in New Orleans, including the Morial Convention Center, Champions Square at the Superdome, and the French Quarter.
“Michael sent me a text asking if I wanted to work on the Super Bowl scenery over the Christmas break,” said Schepker, a winner of the Southeastern President’s Excellence Award for Artistic Activity. “I said ‘yes’ immediately. How can you turn down working on the biggest stage in the world, especially when it is in New Orleans?”
Schepker, who designs and builds most of the sets used in the university’s theatrical productions, first met Kramer when he was a Southeastern student majoring in industrial technology.
“Michael just walked into my shop and said he wanted to build scenery,” he recalled. “I hired him on the spot and he was a natural. He already had many of the skills necessary as a designer and technician.”
A native of New Orleans, Kramer graduated in 1997 and knew he wanted to pursue set design as a career. For graduate studies, Schepker steered him to his alma mater, Western Illinois University, where Kramer refined the skills he needed to work in the New York theater industry. He graduated from WIU in 2001 with an MFA degree in scenic design.
“I worked for him (Schepker) in college, and I fell in love with the theater,” Kramer said. “I found my niche working for him. He sent many students to WIU for graduate degrees.”
“I think Michael really developed as an artist after he moved to New York City,” Schepker said.
Kramer has done set designs for ESPN’s “SportsNation,” as well as for Comedy Central, ABC, Nickelodeon, and numerous New York theater productions.
Another Southeastern graduate, Amanda Klipsch, also worked on the sets as an employee with the Solomon Group. A 2011 theater graduate, she also learned techniques as a student worker in Schepker’s shop and eventually served as scenic director on several productions for which she received awards for graphic and scenic design.
“I loved working in the Southeastern theater program,” she said. “It provided me with more opportunities to design and work shows as an undergraduate than I would have gotten at any other school.”
“Amanda helped to build sets since she started as a freshman,” Schepker said. “She demonstrated a great work ethic and became someone we could always count on.”
Working on the CBS set was a reunion of sorts for Schepker.
“I never thought I would be working under the direction of a former student or with Amanda on a commercial venture like the Super Bowl sets,” he said. “It was a great experience.”