Mark Hsieh

Senior Mark Hsieh joined technical theater his senior year, but that didn’t stop him from creating intricate set designs that brought productions to life. His experience with theater started with church plays at Whittier Christian High School. Although Hsieh wasn’t involved personally, he knew people who were.

“Some of my best memories were made connecting to the people in the sound booth with lighting and projections,” Hsieh said. “Theater is a place I found community in.”

Hsieh struggled during his first years of high school. In second grade he was diagnosed with ADHD.

Hsieh at 8 months with his dad at a Rainforest Cafe. (Photo courtesy of Mark Hsieh)

“Freshman through junior year I was really disorganized,” Hsieh said. “I had lots of missing assignments and was struggling to keep up with my peers.”

It wasn’t until junior year that Hsieh started medication, after which he realized he could be responsible and make important decisions.

Hsieh directed his newfound motivation towards technical theater after seeing the 2022 production of Matilda. The prop and set detail inspired him.

“What really excited me was seeing how much care people put into researching and designing their sets,” Hsieh said. “I love it when a production puts their hearts into the story that they’re telling.”

Hsieh joined MADE (Mechanical Arts Design Engineering) his junior year, a program which applies physics to create bio-mechanical models. The program also helped him think through problems step-by-step and apply basic engineering skills. Hsieh incorporated these concepts into his set designs; Hsieh is most proud of his design for the iceberg in The Skin of Our Teeth.

“I wanted to create something dynamic and 3D,” Hsieh said. “I started by creating a skeleton. It had to be on wheels since it would be moving across the stage. I also had to think about space for actors since Marco [LaRosa], who played the mammoth, would be on the iceberg.”

Hsieh’s biggest contributions was his work in Bright Star. The musical relied on set pieces that could be reused for multiple scenes and changed quickly. Hsieh solved this by placing every piece on wheels, including 6 walls, a cabin, and a double-sided desk. Hsieh also designed the backdrop by tracing the image used for promotional posters and painting it the matching color scheme.

For his work in Bright Star, Hsieh was nominated by both the Orange County Cappies and the JRAYs.

Hsieh will be attending Cal State Long Beach this fall. Although he is going in undeclared, he is leaning towards a degree in human health and services. Hsieh hopes to join the CSULB theater program, trying his hand at costume design.

“I’ve had very supportive friends who have always been there for me,” Hsieh said. “I want to stay connected with the theater community. They’re just brilliant people.”

Theater students loading Bright Star’s set out of the Little Theater and into the historic Fullerton Auditorium. Pictured is the cabin, which Hsieh designed, built, and stained himself. (Photo courtesy of Mark Hsieh)
The finished Bright Star cabin, now decorated with a lantern and vines. The cabin is used multiple times with different decorations to show different settings. (Photo courtesy of Mark Hsieh)