New ASU theater technical director seeks to build relationships, mentor students

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Heather “Digger” Feeney will be joining the faculty of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University as clinical associate professor of technical direction. Feeney has been working with students over the past year as a lecturer at ASU. 

“We are thrilled to have attracted Digger Feeney to this position,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “She brings 18 years of professional industry and creative experience, as well as 12 years of college teaching experience to the program, and we know she will positively impact our students.”

Feeney said students in technical theater get experience not only in building, but also in organization, communication and budgeting. 

“I was always drawn to the fact that all of this is really useful knowledge,” Feeney said. “It makes you a really well-rounded person.”

Prior to coming to Arizona, Feeney was the technical director and educator at DeSales University. She received an MFA from the University of North Carolina and was an assistant technical director at the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival. She was also the lead welder and rigger for eight years at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. 

Most recently, Feeney served as the scenic designer and technical director of a yearlong immersive theater experience at TheaterWorks in Peoria, Arizona. She won a 2021 BroadwayWorld Phoenix Award for her work. 

Technical directors help bring to life the scenic design within production time and budget constraints. It’s a hands-on job that requires attention to detail, good communication skills and creativity. 

“I like being a part of the storytelling in this tangible, environmental and magical way,” Feeney said. “When the playwright presents a problem that I need to solve, I get really excited.” 

In an academic setting, her approach will continue to be hands-on as she mentors students.  

“This is very solidly a mentorship role,” Feeney said. “I like to work side by side with students and then give them free rein to make mistakes and recover from them.”

Feeney said she loves watching how her students grow in confidence and ability. Often students come in with little or no experience. 

“When they build something for the first time and it works or it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, the satisfaction and pride on their faces is so fulfilling,” she said. “I just really like going on that journey with them.”

Feeney credits her parents for always supporting her passion for theater and said she enjoys sharing that passion with students.  

“I want students to know that we are here to support them on their journey toward a career,” she said. “I want them to know this is a relationship for a lifetime. I’m going to be as invested as they are.”

Lacy Chaffee