National Theatre Organization Honors UTEP Professor
Last Updated on February 23, 2022 at 12:00 AM
Originally published February 23, 2022
By MC Staff
UTEP Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at El Paso’s Hideaki Tsutsui received a 2021 Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Training from the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA) during a virtual ceremony Jan. 29, 2022.
The honor recognizes the outstanding work done by individuals and institutions to prepare undergraduate theatre artists. Tsutsui, professor and interim chair of UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance, earned his award in the area of sound design and technology.
Tsutsui said the award acknowledges the work he has done to improve himself as an artist and as an educator since UTEP hired him in 2008. He is an award-winning, in-demand lighting and production designer who has worked events in London, Prague and cities throughout the United States.
The artist/educator said this honor lines up with his goal to lead a department that creates a passionate, positive and inclusive learning experience for students who could shape the future demographic of the theatre and dance industries.
“I believe what I am doing is educating and mentoring students to become better citizens and individuals who can contribute to the community and the world, and I am using theatre as a vehicle to achieve it,” Tsutsui said.
Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, called Tsutsui one of UTEP’s many examples of caring and excellent teachers and mentors.
“We are very proud that his efforts have been recognized by this award,” O’Hearn said.
Zak Stribling, a senior lecturer/production designer/technical director in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Kentucky, said Tsutsui deserved this national honor for his expertise and creativity as an artist and an educator. He called the UTEP professor one of the country’s best lighting designers who could work professionally if he wanted, but he prefers to teach.
“(Tsutsui) cares about nurturing the next generation of theatre artists and providing them a place to grow and learn their craft,” Stribling said. “He loves teaching, and he loves students.”
Stribling has known Tsutsui since they were graduate students at Florida State University in 2002. He said Tsutsui mentored him and through the years, he has seen his friend influence countless other students via the U.S. Institute for Theater Technology’s Gateway Program.
Among the influenced students is Kassia Curl, a senior theatre arts major with a concentration in lighting. She recently returned from a campus visit to UC Irvine arranged by Tsutsui to learn about its graduate program in lighting design. The El Paso native said she has worked with and taken classes from Tsutsui for four years. She called him a great educator.
“When he teaches content, he shares examples of what he has done in his own career,” said Curl, who served as Tsutsui’s master electrician during the 2019 UTEP production of “Real Women Have Curves.” “Those details make the class more interesting and more realistic.”
Among Tsutsui's recent extracurricular assignments were the lighting design for the “Elf The Musical” in December 2021 in Augusta, Georgia, the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in April 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in May 2021 in Charlottesville, North Carolina. He called these events research assignments. He learns new ideas and how to use the latest technology, and then shares his discoveries with his students.
Anthony “Tony” Hagopian, URTA executive director, thanked Tsutsui for his work that elevates the theatrical and entertainment fields through his dedication and “excellent” training of new artists. The URTA supports the continuous renewal of the American theatre through its support of excellence in professional training of new artists.
“Through these awards, URTA seeks to acknowledge the importance of helping young theatre artists develop the essential skills they will need in order to advance to the next level of their training, and ultimately the profession,” Hagopian wrote in Tsutsui’s announcement letter.