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Kentuckians in Theater

What kinds of jobs and careers are available in theater, and what does it take to be a theater professional? Check out this resource to get the who, what, when, where, how, and why straight from theater people with Kentucky connections.

John S. Benjamin: Arts Administrator

Frankfort, KY
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Who
John Benjamin is director of arts education programs and theater specialist for the Kentucky Arts Council. He has more than 30 years of experience as a producer and director of more than 100 plays in professional and community theaters in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio and has also been a professional actor. He was executive director of the Chattanooga Performing Arts Center in Tennessee and has extensive experience in fund raising, audience development, budgeting, and arts education. Benjamin has served as a consultant to theaters around the country and has taught theater history and acting to college students.

What
“My major focus is placing professional artists in schools around the state as artists-in-residence and helping teachers write grants. I also write the arts education portion of Arts Council grant proposals and administer all the different grants we receive. Anything related to theater that comes to the Kentucky Arts Council for any kind of program comes to me. I also do site visits to see how the artists’ residencies are going in the classroom.”

When
“Our regular hours are 8:00 to 4:30, but there’s a great deal of overtime involved—evenings and weekends. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. We use ‘comp time’ [an equal amount of time off later on] to make up for that.”

Where
“I work primarily in the Kentucky Arts Council office in Frankfort, and I also do site visits to see the artists-in-residence in schools throughout the state.”

How
“I work with artists, teachers, and anybody who gets a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. I have to be diplomatic. I draw on that skill frequently because I deal with a lot of unusual personalities. I have to be a good communicator—to articulate what I need to. And I have a lot of life experience with fund raising, grant writing, and work in theater. I’ve done it for 35 years.”

Why
“A great deal of my job is working directly with artists, and I like artists. My favorite thing is to go into a classroom and see the artist-in-residence program working, see this succeeding, and see kids catch fire the way they can learning with the arts. We reach kids who haven’t been reached any other way. It’s happening every day. I would like to be able to serve more kids.”

Getting There
“There are really fine arts administration programs out there in the colleges and universities now. And there’s nothing like practical experience. Get to know everything you possibly can about the business. It’s important to have an understanding, a feeling for the people you’re working with, and not just the nuts and bolts of the business. It’s a lifelong learning thing. You don’t get it all in college, and you don’t get it all doing it. You just learn new stuff all the time.”

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William Caise: Director

West Lafayette, IN

About the photo: The “headshot,” a professionally produced photo of an artist’s face, introduces that person to casting directors, agents, and others looking for performers or collaborators. On the back of Caise’s is a list of some of his credits and professional accomplishments.

About the photo: The “headshot,” a professionally produced photo of an artist’s face, introduces that person to casting directors, agents, and others looking for performers or collaborators. On the back of Caise’s is a list of some of his credits and professional accomplishments.


Who
William Caise is from Nicholasville, KY. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa. Before he entered graduate school, much of Caise’s experience as an actor and director came from working with Message Theater, a company he established with four colleagues in Lexington. Since 2002, he has been an artist-in-residence at the Purdue University Black Cultural Center, where he writes and directs plays for the New Directional Players and teaches theater.

What
“The director is much like the captain of a ship—responsible for the direction a production takes. As a director, my primary responsibility is to the text. I am responsible for reading, interpreting, and communicating what I feel are the salient ideas or themes in a piece and then bringing together a team of other artists to create it. This translates to meetings with designers, technicians, and administrators and, ultimately, to auditions, where the actors are brought into the process.”

When
“My hours vary. If I am working on a professional show, the hours can be 8:00 to 5:00 for a period of three or four weeks. If I am working in an educational or amateur environment, the hours tend to be somewhere between 6:00 or 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm, five to six days a week for five or six weeks.”

Where
“My work typically takes place in a rehearsal hall or theater, though some of the places may have more than one function depending on the type of work you are doing.”

How
“I work with actors, administrators, technicians, and designers. Theater is very much a collaborative art, and these other professionals bring their own artistry and expertise to the table. A director must be able to communicate, to research and motivate. The greatest challenge is that, as director, all of the decisions concerning the show fall at your feet. That’s where the research pays off.”

Why
“I am very much enamored with the process. Yes, I do like getting to the end of the rehearsal process and seeing the product, but getting there is pretty amazing. To go from sitting at a table explaining ideas and concepts to seeing those concepts made concrete in both flesh and steel is pretty amazing. The creativity and ingenuity of some folk is simply amazing. My personal goals include establishing a multimedia production company, as well as continuing to teach, act, and direct.”

Getting There
“Get your education, know what you want, and hold on to your dreams.”

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Trish Clark: Actor

Lexington, KY
Who
Trish Clark is from Lexington, where she teaches drama and directs many of the theater productions at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School. She has been an actress since her sophomore year in high school and continues performing with theater companies, including Actors Guild of Lexington and the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, where she also serves as artistic director. She is the mother of two grown daughters, one of whom is an aspiring actress in New York. Clark has a bachelor’s degree in theater from Eastern Kentucky University.

What
“An actor presents life as it is called for in the script. You have to be true to the playwright.”

When/Where
“It can be difficult to perform since I’m a teacher, but I’ve lived in Lexington most of my life and know most of the artists in town. They work around my schedule, which is a wonderful thing. When I’m in a show, I’ll be working 16 hours a day. I’ll teach, then rehearse with students after school—sometimes we do five shows a year at Dunbar—then get something to eat, and rush to a rehearsal at 7:00. It was tough when I had two young children. I brought the kids with me, and sometimes we would include them in the musicals.”

How/Why
“One of the gifts that I treasure about acting is having the opportunity to create life in an imaginary form. It makes it necessary to understand another individual. You have to get into the skin of another person to understand the role. It helps you a lot as an actor and as a human being to understand why a character is doing a particular thing, why they make the choices they do, why their choices are different from your choices. It has helped me to be a better human being, a better communicator, a better parent and teacher, to understand why people do the things they do—to be more empathetic to the people you’re around daily. I want to make better communicators—make them more comfortable in their own skins, and [help them] to be empathetic to others.”

Getting There
“Life gets in the way of ideals most of the time. My students get big stars in their eyes, and I wouldn’t discourage that dream. But you’ve got to come to an understanding that life gets in the way. There’s so much involved in being a full-time professional actor. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. There’s so much more than having an audience enjoy you. You also have to survive. There are so many wonderful things you can do in the field besides working in it full-time, including teaching and working within the community where you live. It’s not just about creating art… It’s about reaching out and having everybody participate in life.”

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Michael L. Cochran: Director

Paducah, KY

About the photo: Cochran is shown in his office at Market House Theatre, catching up on some e-mail before a rehearsal.

About the photo: Cochran is shown in his office at Market House Theatre, catching up on some e-mail before a rehearsal.


Who
Michael Cochran is executive director of Market House Theatre, a community theater in Paducah, KY. Market House has a full-time, paid professional staff and a board of directors made up of members of the community. As in most community theaters, actors and musicians at Market House are not paid. Cochran has been a scenic designer, technical director, stage manager, playwright, and college theater instructor as well as a director. He started at Market House as a designer and technical director in 1983 and became executive director in 1995. Cochran has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His wife, April Cochran, is education director at Market House Theatre, and their young daughter, in his words, “is growing up in the theater.”

What
“I’m artistic director of the theater, and in that role, I direct some of the productions myself and oversee the directors I hire. I work with designers and the rest of the staff to make sure the show is produced at certain levels of quality and stays within its budget and the performers have a good time. As managing director, I oversee a lot of the day-to-day business of the theater: paying the bills, negotiating with vendors—everything from who’s going to print our brochures and programs to warehouse space to store scenery. I stray into development and marketing, too. I write press releases. I lay out the program myself, so I do a lot of desktop publishing. And I work with the board of directors to do fund raising, the membership drive, and so on.”

When
“I work 70 to 80 hours a week. Monday through Friday, I come in first thing in the morning, and then I pick up our daughter at day care while my wife is working with the youth show from 5:30 to 7:00. Then I hand off our daughter to my wife, and I go to rehearsal in the evening. Saturday mornings, my wife teaches all morning while I’m home with our daughter. Saturday evenings, I’m at the theater. I’m there about half the time when a show is in production.”

Where
“I work in our offices, across the street from the main theater, or in the theater.” (Under Cochran’s leadership, Market House Theatre undertook the renovation of three buildings on the National Register of Historic Places that now serve as the theater’s offices.)

How
“I’m the glue that keeps everything together. I tend to be a team builder. I try not to get involved in all the details, but I challenge on a regular basis the way we do things, to make sure we don’t do things the way we’ve always done it … to have a vision about where we should go. I challenge the board, too, to do things maybe they’re not comfortable with, to stretch their creative potential and stretch my own, too—to get a new audience to come to see things.”

Why
“I get to create. I get to tell stories that affect people’s lives. I get to work with actors and watch them and be a part of the creative process of bringing a character and a story to life. The number of lives I’ve touched—people who come up to me and say that was one of the best times of their lives … I had always done professional theater before, and I thought I would take a community theater job for two years. It’s now been 20 years…. You have to really like working with people, and directing takes somebody who’s a little bit of everything. I like the artistic part of it and the psychology when I’m working with actors, figuring out a character, working through literature, elements of theme and story. I like working with sculpture—a piece of a set or a piece of material. And every six to eight weeks, I like a new challenge.”

Getting There
“Be well-rounded. Be well-read. I read everything I can get my hands on. You never know when you’re going to need that fact or information. Do whatever you can—any play, in any capacity. To succeed in theater you need to know a lot of people. Each person has his or her own style. The more styles you’re used to, the better theater person you’ll be.”

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Barrett Cooper: Fight Director

Louisville, KY
Who
Barrett Cooper is fight director for Walden Theatre in Louisville, KY, where he also teaches stage combat. He has also served as fight director for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival; Arkansas Repertory Theater; Wayside Theater in Middletown, VA; and the Itinerant Theater Guild in Chicago. He has a bachelor’s degree in theater from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. While earning his master’s degree, Cooper studied stage combat with David Harum and became assistant fight director at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

What
“A fight director is concerned with two things. One is the safety of the actors, because if the fight is not safe, the audience is going to be more concerned for the actors than they are for the characters. Two is to make sure that the fight itself doesn’t become its own play, but helps to progress the story of the playwright.”

When/Where
“I need an hour a day to work with actors for a single fight scene, even though the fight on stage might last for only 45 seconds to a minute. You want to give it a lot of time. I work in rehearsal halls, theaters, sometimes outdoors. Or we might be doing a traveling show where we’re on a high school auditorium stage, a gym floor, or the recreation room floor of a nursing home. You have to know how to use the space you’re in.”

How
“I work with actors, the director, and the set and costume designers. You get from the director exactly what he or she is looking for—how big a fight, how violent, what style? Is it comic, brutal, or whatever? Then you have to find out the abilities of the actors. You want to have a fight that’s entertaining and looks good, but you don’t want it to stand out on its own. You have to have a real sense of what the play is about—for example, is it realistic that the characters do this? You work very closely with the actors on their character in the fight. And the designers: If a character has a specific costume where mobility is limited, you have to figure that into the fight. Is it a raked [angled] stage, and how severe is the rake? Fight direction isn’t a whole lot different from regular choreography. You’ve got to think about your footwork, about traveling across the stage, and internal timing is also important. You have to get into your muscles—like in golf or in dance. Stage combat is about sending your energy past the person you’re ‘fighting,’ or getting up to the person and pulling your energy back.”

Why
“What I really like a lot is the illusion of violence in a stage fight. It’s not real violence. These actors sometimes have to do eight shows a week, and if it was real, somebody’s going to get hurt. Ninety-five percent is knowing how to throw the punch, and the rest is the acting part—that really sells it. Knowing that it’s really safe. Knowing that you can go back the next night and see it again, and it will be fresh. Knowing that it’s an illusion, because theater is nothing but illusion.”

Getting There
“I’ve always been very athletic. You have to learn as much as you can, see as many stage fights as you can. And make sure you take classes, that you learn from a really good teacher.”

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Julie Crutcher: Dramaturg

Louisville, KY
Who
Julie Crutcher was literary manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville from 1981 to 1986 and served as freelance dramaturg for Actors from 1986 to 1995. She teaches speech and theater at St. Francis High School in Louisville.

What
“Dramaturgy is kind of an emerging field—or it was when I started in 1980. Before that, it existed mostly in Europe. There were not many dramaturgs in the U.S. until there was a great surge in new plays being written and produced in regional theaters like Actors Theatre of Louisville in the late 1970s. What a dramaturg does depends on whether you’ve got a live or dead playwright. Classical dramaturgy involves doing research on the time period and providing context for classical plays, like those written by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. When the playwright is there, a dramaturg is helping the playwright realize his or her vision of the play. You’re almost like an editor for the playwright, and the playwright’s eyes and ears in the rehearsal setting—for example, if you think something sounds odd or doesn’t make sense in the context of the play.”

When/Where
“A dramaturg usually works during rehearsal hours, which can be odd hours—evenings and weekends. There is also some work early on—meetings, research in libraries, on the phone, and so on. The work takes place in an office, a theater, a rehearsal hall.”

How
“You’ve got to do a lot of administrative work, to process a lot of stuff. Get scripts for plays in, read them, and get them out again. I had an ability to make playwrights feel they were being listened to by directors. You have to stick up for the playwrights most of the time. Since you’re not publishing anything and you don’t have a financial stake in the end product, the relationship between the dramaturg and the playwright becomes more of a friendship, a guardianship.”

Why
“I liked getting to know playwrights. Writing letters was my favorite part of the job. I was in ongoing correspondence with about 75 writers. They’re such interesting people. I loved that network of talking to people, and it was so exciting to read their stuff.”

Getting There
“Now there are many more programs in dramaturgy at colleges and universities. No matter what you do in theater, it’s really important to understand all aspects—acting, technical theater. And it’s important to read and read and read. And see stuff in theaters—bad stuff, good stuff. Theater is a very cumulative art, and the more you see and read, the more you do, the more you understand. You have to understand the process of how it all fits together. You can only understand it by going through it. It’s all theoretical until you’re on stage. You fly by the seat of your pants. That’s what makes theater so addictive. It lives in that moment … and then it’s gone.”

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Liz Bussey Fentress: Playwright

Louisville, KY
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Who
Liz Bussey Fentress has worked as a producer, administrator, director, actor, and teacher as well as a playwright. She was associate producer of Horse Cave Theatre (now known as the Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave) and executive director of the Playhouse in the Park, a community theater in Murray, KY. Before moving to Kentucky, Fentress toured throughout the Midwest with the Guthrie Theater and the Franzen Bros. Circus. Her first play, Liz’s Circus Story, is about her own experiences working with the circus. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.

For a backstage peek into the development of Liz’s Circus Story, watch KET’s Electronic Field Trip to Horse Cave Theatre and visit the field trip web site. During the video, you’ll meet Fentress and see her working with her director.

In 2003, Fentress and KET adapted the play for television. That version of Liz’s Circus Story is available on tape from KET, and the accompanying web site has extensive background information on the circus, the play, and the process of translating the work from stage to screen. Fentress and three short scenes from her play are included on the Aspects of Drama DVD in the 2nd Edition Drama Arts Toolkit.

What
“A playwright is someone who has something he or she has to say, a message to deliver.”

When
“I write three days a week—always on weekdays, generally late morning until late afternoon.”

Where
“A place I go to write is Hopscotch House, a retreat for artists in Prospect, KY that’s owned by the Kentucky Foundation for Women. I think of it as my office. And I have a study/office at home where I do printing, collating, and correspondence.”

How
“You spend a lot of time working by yourself when you’re trying to structure the plot and put some meat on the bones. Then you go through this long process of reading the play for an audience, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and re-writing. They say a play is not written; it’s re-written. The next individuals you have to work with are a director and actors—the people who have to make the play live and breathe. Theater is collaborative, so you have to set your deadline with your collaborators.”

Why
“I had a story that I had to tell, and because I worked in theater, the way I knew to tell stories was through theater.”

Getting There
“College gives discipline [and] a sense of accomplishment and expands your world view. To be a playwright you have to be curious about life and participate in life. Then you have to find a structure through which you can write. For years, I took the playwriting class at Horse Cave Theatre. You have to have something to say and learn how to develop that. You have to read. And in order to survive in the theater, you have to be passionate about it.”

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David Jackson: Actor

Lexington, KY

About the photo: Jackson is shown in a Lexington Children’s Theatre production of There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.

About the photo: Jackson is shown in a Lexington Children’s Theatre production of There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.


Who
David Jackson is 13 years old and in the 8th grade in Lexington, KY. He has acted professionally since he was 7 with Lexington Children’s Theatre and the Lexington Shakespeare Festival. For high school, Jackson will attend the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Lexington’s Lafayette High School.

What
“My job as an actor is to bring whatever character I’m playing to life.”

When/Where
“I do two plays a year on average in Lexington, and I also take acting classes during the school year and go to acting summer camp in Lexington. When I’m in a play, I go to school all day, then after school I come home and get my homework done right away. Then I have rehearsal at 4:00 or 5:00, and that goes as late as 10:00 or 11:00 during tech rehearsals. Once we start performing, I have to miss school, because we perform during the day for other school kids. The run of a show is normally a week or two. My teachers give me a little while to make up my work. I’m a pretty good student, and I’ll ask my friends every day what I missed. It’s not too hard to catch up if you try.”

How
“I have a pretty easy time memorizing the lines and the blocking. I think the hardest thing is to make every show as exciting as the one before it, or better. When you’re doing two shows a day for two weeks, it gets tiring and you have to remember the audience has never seen it.”

Why
“It’s fun to pretend to be somebody else—to take a walk in somebody else’s shoes. When you’re in a play, you get to view the world from somebody else’s perspective. In 2003, I got to play the character Bradley Chalkers in There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom at Lexington Children’s Theatre. It was very fun to play a very loud character, kind of a bully. I’ve never gotten to be a bully. Bradley would say whatever he wanted to say to the teachers. He also had a soft side … and it was fun to play with that transition. And it’s always fun to interact with the other actors on stage.”

Getting There
“To be an actor you have to love to do it. It takes a lot of determination and a lot of effort, but the reward is so great, it’s worth it. The reward is the reaction from the audience and whatever effect you have on the people who see the play. It’s always fun to affect someone’s life.”

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Jeremy Kisling: Education Director

Lexington, KY

About the photo: Kisling encourages a student taking part in a drama activity.

About the photo: Kisling encourages a student taking part in a drama activity.


Who
Jeremy Kisling, the education director at Lexington Children’s Theatre, has taught acting and theater arts to young people in Iowa, Texas, Washington, and Kentucky. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Iowa and his Master of Fine Arts in drama and theater for youth from the University of Texas at Austin. Each year, Kisling directs two or three productions at LCT and assists in the development of the company’s original works. He also serves as the Playwright Network chair for the American Alliance in Theatre Education and on the board of the Kentucky Theatre Association. He teaches at the University of Kentucky and Georgetown College.

What
“As education director, I’m involved in outreach, so when children come to our theater, it’s more than just a field trip experience for them. It’s an enriched experience. I create materials for the teachers to use in the classroom before and after students see a play. We also have a theater school for students ages 4 and up, and I teach and train other teachers as well. And we have something called Company B, which is a training program for high school students seriously interested in theater as a career.”

When
“Theater is a job that requires your full attention sometimes, and your not-so-full attention other times. You work when it’s needed—14-hour days sometimes, and then there will be days when you’re not working on anything. I’m better in the morning when it comes to writing and organizational things. Then sometimes I go to the gym in the afternoon, and come back and teach classes in the late afternoon and evening. I also teach from 10:00 to 1:00 on Saturdays.”

Where
“I work in our offices, in the theater, in schools, and in community centers.”

How
“An education director is required to do three things: You have to be an administrator—dealing with budgets and hiring teachers. Then I’m an educator—writing curriculum, working with teachers and students. And I’m an artist. I need to be creative and imaginative and think of different ways to solve problems [in theater], like how to make Harry Potter fly on a broomstick [on stage]. I’m a teaching artist. Time management is my greatest challenge.”

Why
“Every child who walks through my door has to have a quality experience that is fair and respects them. I’m meeting the needs of students and the organization. This morning I was working with 14 4- to 6-year-olds. Their imaginations will go anywhere. They don’t say, ‘That’s not possible.’ They say, ‘Let’s go for it, let’s do it.’ Seeing those ideas filter into their brains, seeing their eyes light up, is amazing. And it’s not just theater we need our imaginations for. That’s not always something they get to do in school.”

Getting There
“I started doing theater—acting—when I was 12. By the time I was in high school, I was also doing stage management and lighting design. You need to be a Renaissance person who can do many different things well. It took me five years after college to figure out what I wanted to specialize in. I have a Master of Fine Arts in drama and theater for children. I have to teach playwriting, lighting design, acting…. Having the broad background serves me well.”

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Lorna Littleway: Producer

Louisville, KY
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Who
Lorna Littleway founded Juneteenth Legacy Theatre in Louisville, KY. A New York native, she holds a bachelor’s degree in theater arts communications from the University of Southern Maine, a master’s degree in playwriting from Goddard College in Vermont, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in directing from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Littleway has been a producer, director, stage manager, playwright, and actor. She came to Louisville in 1994 to teach at the University of Louisville in the nation’s only degree program in African-American theater. Juneteenth Legacy Theatre is named in honor of the date in 1865—June 19—on which African Americans in the western territories of the United States learned that slavery had been abolished more than two years before with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth Legacy Theatre is dedicated to giving voice to the African-American experience.

What
“As a producer, you select the artistic statement you want to make. You have to define what mission your company is going to serve. You’re serving a general audience, and you’re also serving artists. A producer has to look at theater as a business—selling it. You determine what audience is there and how you can reach that audience effectively. You look for funding sources and identify people who are going to be committed to a project.”

When
“I work all the time. There’s no such thing as a day off in theater. If you’re not involved in a project, you should think about creating a project.”

Where
“Juneteenth Legacy Theatre has offices on West Broadway in Louisville. We don’t have a performance space, because having a space is about real estate management.” (Juneteenth rents performance space for its productions in existing theaters in Louisville and on tour.)

About the photo: The backstage photo shows Littleway in one of her other theatrical “roles,” conferring with musicians as director of a production of Robert John Trick the Devil at the St. Louis Black Repertory Company in spring 2003.

About the photo: The backstage photo shows Littleway in one of her other theatrical “roles,” conferring with musicians as director of a production of Robert John Trick the Devil at the St. Louis Black Repertory Company in spring 2003.


How
“A producer works with everyone. Everyone I meet I try to interest in Juneteenth Legacy Theatre. They are potential artists, donors, or audience members. You have to have the ability to compromise and make decisions. In a company that’s starting out, you have to be able to say, ‘That doesn’t make good business sense for us.’ An artist can be very keen about a play, but sometimes I have to say, ‘I can’t sell that.’ Other times you’ll say, ‘I will go ahead and do that despite increased expense to the company.’ You weigh those kinds of decisions all the time…. The greatest challenge is finding money to produce plays and reaching individuals and businesses and selling them on the importance of the arts in the community. In the case of Juneteenth Legacy Theatre, it’s selling the idea of how an African-American theater company serves everyone in the community or the Commonwealth.”

Why
“I do very much enjoy the audience’s response. But the greatest adventure is the collaboration with the artists. My goals for the next few years are to increase our earned income, to make our tour profitable, and to establish a core performance group, a group of artists that our season will be based on.”

Getting There
“Do all facets of theater—acting, directing, writing. Having familiarity with everything except design has helped me very much in being a producer, in selecting material and matching artists to projects. Pay attention to the audience response to different kinds of work. And see as many different kinds of theater as possible.”

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Corey Martin: Costume Designer

Oklahoma City, OK
Who
Corey Martin has designed many productions for Oklahoma professional and community theaters and serves as resident costume designer for Jenny Wiley Theatre, a summer outdoor professional theater in Prestonsburg, KY. Martin also has been an actor and has worked as an assistant designer, shop foreman, and wig and makeup designer. He attended Oklahoma City University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Martin’s favorite design projects include the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, starring Alley Mills of TV’s The Wonder Years, and the play The Lion in Winter, starring Maureen McGovern. He especially loves working with young performers and helping to make their dreams a reality.

What
“Costumes determine the outward appearance of who the characters in a play really are. You see people on stage before you hear them speak. If you see Dolly Levi [in the musical Hello, Dolly!] in a red dress, you know that’s Dolly.”

When
“I work anywhere from eight to 18 hours a day. Last year, when I was doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I didn’t go to bed for three days. I basically built the entire show by myself in 12 days. That’s the hardest show I’ve ever put together that quickly.”

Where
“I primarily work out of my home, but several theaters that I work for have costume shops that I do work in.”

How
“The first job as a costume designer is to read the script to determine when the show takes place in history, what class of people the characters are, and so on. From there, I do my sketches. Then you start shopping for fabric and start building the costumes. I work with the director, the actors—and with producers a lot, because they tell me how much money I can spend on fabric or actual clothing. I’ve worked with everything from a $300 budget to a $22,000 budget. You have to be really creative to find the things you need. And you have to be really organized. I keep files of all the patterns I use, and I have my own collection of clothing that can be used as costumes. I did needlework by hand when I was 6 and started sewing with a machine when I was 10. It helps if you can draw and sew.”

Why
“I like being able to express myself and be creative. I get to make my own schedule and do what I like to do. The biggest challenge for me is time. A lot of times, I don’t have enough. I’m a perfectionist, and it can take hours and hours and hours to make one garment. I put in 80 hours of labor making a dress for Alley Mills.”

Getting There
“First you have to learn to sew. Then learn about fabrics, historical period costumes, and so on. I started out in home ec classes in high school and was a state FHA officer.”

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Tim Mathistad: Musical Director

Louisville, KY
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Who
Tim Mathistad is director of operations and musical director for the Blue Apple Players, a touring children’s theater company based in Louisville, KY. He has worked full-time in theater for almost 30 years, as an actor, director, and administrator. He has a bachelor’s degree in music/vocal performance from Wartburg College in Iowa.

What
“As musical director, my job is to coordinate the voices in a production. You have to teach the music to the actors, and once they learn the notes, I try to help them get a character interpretation that fits the actor’s particular voice. We do so many shows, I need to make sure there is no vocal strain with any of the actors. I will raise or lower the key of a song to suit the actor’s voice or make a song a patter song [a song that is spoken more than sung] if the actor cannot physically cut the notes. I also arrange the music and then send it to an orchestrator who adds the individual instrumental sounds. And, instead of teaching harmonies to the actors, I lay down a harmony track in the studio that plays as accompaniment. That gives the director more time to work on character development.”

When/Where
“Some musical directors also conduct the orchestra and actor/singers, but we tour, so I lay down all the music on a mini-disk. I’m based in Louisville and work full days Monday through Friday. We rehearse in a church, and I go into a studio to record music tracks.”

How
“I work with the actors and director. And I’m involved quite a bit in the creative process, because these are original musicals. I get the basic melody line and a lot of guidance in terms of style from the playwright, and then I make a musical arrangement, which I then send to an orchestrator. He takes the basic arrangement I have and my suggestions in terms of style—jazz, blues, for example—and he puts the actual instruments in. I lay the groundwork for the orchestrator. It’s an integral part of the creative process. The orchestrator and I e-mail back and forth via a music program. All the music is played through the program, Cakewalk, on a computer.”

Why
“I really enjoy the effect the plays and music have on kids. We allow kids to be raucous, and they just have a ton of fun. We leave moments throughout the show where kids can interact, and we encourage response from the audience. When it translates into enjoyment for the kids, that’s the real reward.”

Getting There
“Get into a good college program and get a musical background, whether it’s in education or performance. You need the creative stimulus of school to really be able to succeed. Experience as a performer also helps. You understand what the actors are up against, and you can relate to that.”

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Rebecca C. Monroe: Stage Manager

New York, NY

About the photo: Monroe is pictured stage-managing a production of Flower Drum Song at the Virginia Theatre in New York City. Here’s her description of what you see: “I am at the ‘calling desk’ from which a stage manager runs the show. My left hand is on a cue switch for automation, and I am speaking into the paging system. Directly above the cuing switches is a panel for the stage manager’s headset contacts: Light Board Operator, Followspots, Deck, Sound, etc. On top you see three monitors. The left one is a side view of the stage (important on some shows for the safety of the performers and big moving set pieces), the middle one is a view of the whole stage, and the one on the right is a monitor of the conductor, whom I have to follow carefully. On the back of the desk you’ll see a red drum—that was one of the Flower Drums for the show.”

About the photo: Monroe is pictured stage-managing a production of Flower Drum Song at the Virginia Theatre in New York City. Here’s her description of what you see: “I am at the ‘calling desk’ from which a stage manager runs the show. My left hand is on a cue switch for automation, and I am speaking into the paging system. Directly above the cuing switches is a panel for the stage manager’s headset contacts: Light Board Operator, Followspots, Deck, Sound, etc. On top you see three monitors. The left one is a side view of the stage (important on some shows for the safety of the performers and big moving set pieces), the middle one is a view of the whole stage, and the one on the right is a monitor of the conductor, whom I have to follow carefully. On the back of the desk you’ll see a red drum—that was one of the Flower Drums for the show.”


Who
Rebecca Monroe has worked as a stage manager for musicals, “straight” (non-musical) plays, and ballet and opera productions throughout the United States, including on Broadway in New York City, where she served as stage manager for the hit revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College, where she pursued her love of Shakespeare. While spending her junior year in England, Monroe attended productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the Bard’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. Hoping to become a dramaturg—a professional who assists with the research and interpretation of plays—she continued her studies at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where she first had the opportunity to work as an assistant stage manager. Monroe’s first job as production stage manager was at Horse Cave Theatre (now known as the Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave), where she worked in 1992 and 1993.

What
“A stage manager is the liaison—the communications route—between all the different departments: the actors, the director, the technical departments. The stage manager executes for the director his or her vision of the play. The director leaves once the show is open, and the stage manager is responsible for maintaining the artistic integrity of the director. I’m a pretty unusual stage manager in that I do everything—ballet, Broadway, straight plays, opera.”

When
“On Broadway, you start during the development of the play, from the very first reading of the script by the cast. Before you get into rehearsals, they have pre-production. The stage manager keeps track of production numbers, costume and set logistics, and props; puts together contact sheets with phone numbers of cast and crew; and generally figures out how to do things most efficiently. The stage manager also directs understudies (actors who must be prepared to substitute for regular cast members) in understudy rehearsals and takes care of some of the finances…. During the run of a show, the stage manager or an assistant stage manager ‘calls the show’—gives the cues for light changes—throughout the show and maintains everyday technical stuff such as making sure any damage to the set gets fixed. Before every performance, I check in on my headset with every department head and make sure that everyone is ready to start. I talk to the light board engineer, the person mixing the sound, the orchestra conductor, the men on the rail [‘flymen,’ who raise and lower parts of the set], follow spots, and house manager.
“The schedule depends on what step of the process you’re in. When we’re in rehearsal, I work from 9:00 in the morning until around 7:00 at night, and then I work on paperwork related to the show. When we’re in the theater doing tech [technical rehearsals], I work from 8:00 in the morning until midnight or 1:00 am. During previews, we’re rehearsing during the day and performing at night. Once the show is open, I get to the theater about two hours before a performance. We also do matinees, weekends, and promotions, like the Today show.”

Where
“I work in rehearsal halls and theaters. In some places, you don’t have a rehearsal hall at all.”

How
“I work with everyone connected to a production. When I do opera, it’s helpful to speak a foreign language. I have high school French and some Italian. When you’re stage-managing an opera, it helps to be able to read music. During a musical, I’m counting off ‘bumps,’ not following the musical score.”

Why
“I love the craziness of backstage. I love being with the performers and realizing when you’re coming close to bringing it all together—that adrenaline when the show’s new. I like the camaraderie of theater. I would really love to be able to work in a foreign country, like an opera festival in Italy or at the Globe Theater in London.”

Getting There
“Don’t specialize in theater early on. Go out and be well-rounded first. I’m glad I had a liberal arts background. I have a big ‘inner encyclopedia’ with historical references that can help a director. Stage-managing is something you learn by doing, so you should go out and have the experience. Go intern at Horse Cave Theatre or anyplace you can go—professional or community theater. I have fond memories of Horse Cave. They were willing to take a chance on me.”

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Celeste Santamassino: Production Manager

Pittsburgh, PA

Who
Celeste Santamassino has been a director and assistant director for the Kentucky Opera and Bunbury Theater in Louisville, KY and served as production manager for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville for more than five years. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and theater from Centre College in Danville, KY and is working toward her master’s degree in production technology and management at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

What
“The production manager is in charge of making sure that all the technical elements of a play come together—lights, sound, set, costumes. I check on how much money we’re spending, and I do a lot of scheduling—of rehearsal and performance spaces, how to move the show into the theater, the tech rehearsal schedule. Ninety percent of my job is talking to people to make sure that they’ve talked to other people—to make sure the designers are talking to the director about what they see coming up as the show is being built, and so on. I make sure people have what they need to do their job well, whether that’s money or time.”

When/Where
“When the people I need to talk to are working, that’s when I need to talk to them—which can be any time of the day or night. But production managers can work a more normal schedule than some people in theater. When we’re in tech [rehearsal], I have to be there, but I don’t have to be there during the run of a show. A production manager works in an office, and also makes rounds to all the different departments. The scene shop is often not anywhere near the costume shop. Sometimes in a large theater company, the sets are built in a different city.”

How
“People skills are most helpful. You have to be a good listener because people are going to tell you when things are going wrong, but sometimes they don’t tell you how badly. You have to know when people are asking for help. You run a lot of interference between people, cooling their jets, making peace between departments. You find ways for things to work. There’s a lot of problem solving. You have to work to get lots of artistic people, creative people, to agree. That’s the collaborative nature of theater. It’s the most collaborative art form…. Organization is helpful and essential. There’s all the paperwork—contracts for the staff, all the receipts for everything that gets spent, calendars, schedules, organization of the timing of things, like when you’re loading a show into a theater and arranging how all the technical departments will interact with one another.”

Why
“I like the interaction. One of the things that compelled me to do production management was that I couldn’t ever decide what I wanted to do in theater—I like too many things. When I started to see what a production manager did, I thought, ‘This is what I want. I get to talk to everybody.’”

Getting There
“Get a comfortable training in every department: building sets, costumes, lights, and so on. You have to be able to talk to every department. You need as much technical theater knowledge as you can get to balance out the management training you have.”

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Joe Searcy: Technical Director

Paducah, KY

About the photo: Searcy works on the head of a robot for a touring children’s theater production.

About the photo: Searcy works on the head of a robot for a touring children’s theater production.


Who
Joe Searcy grew up in Texas, where he attended McMurry University in Abilene. He has taught technical theater, scenic design, and lighting design; has worked in community theaters on carpentry and lighting; and, since 1996, has been technical director at Market House Theatre, a community theater in Paducah, KY. Before Searcy discovered how much fun it is to work in theater, he had worked in the construction business and, for a time, as a rodeo clown. He estimates that he has worked on the technical side of almost 800 different shows.

What
“A technical director is responsible for the magic—the things that move and disappear on stage. We figure out how to make that happen. We also make sure the theater is a safe place for the actors, crew, and audience. And we do all the construction work involved with the scenery. Sometimes I also design the scenery. At Market House Theatre, I’m the production staff outside of the director of the show. I do scenic and lighting design, I’m the carpenter, and I carry out the trash!”

When
“I work when I’m awake! That’s pretty much 6:00 in the morning until 9:30 or 10:00 at night in season. We do five main stage shows, three children’s shows, two touring shows … and there are acting classes for elementary through high school kids.”

Where
“We build scenery in the scene shop and assemble it on stage. I design stuff in an office. Most designers now work with computer-aided drafting, or CAD. And we build models of sets before building the actual set—when we have time.”

How
“I work most directly with the director of the show. I make sure things are where they need to be for the actors and that things are working as they should. It helps to have construction and painting skills—and the willingness to get dirty. You paint yourself as much as the scenery! You also need stamina. The hours can be demanding, but it’s also very satisfying. As technical director, you get that time challenge. In actual construction work [outside the theater], if you’re three weeks late, it’s not that big a deal. You don’t turn people away at the door. In the theater, there’s the satisfaction of having that opening night deadline and meeting it.”

Why
“I found it difficult to go to school until I found theater. That’s what kept me in college, because it was so much fun. I grew up doing construction work because that’s what my father did. I had gone with a friend to an audition at a junior college in Texas. The director saw me—I’m 6’5", 260 pounds—and asked me to play the part of Big Jule in Guys and Dolls. It was the first time I’d ever stepped inside a theater. The director paid me to rig roll drops [backdrops on stage], and that was when I discovered that in theater, I could get paid to work indoors on construction with people that were fun to be around. I enjoy figuring out how to create the magic on stage—like, in Dracula, making the portrait of someone’s mother turn into the face of Dracula.”

Getting There
“You need broad experience and education. You should know a little bit about as much as possible. Liberal arts education, where you can branch out and look at different subjects, is helpful. When I’m faced with a problem somewhere in the theater, a little bit of learning leads me to things that help me to discover how to solve my problem.”

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Lane Sparber: Lighting Designer

New York, NY
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Who
Lane Sparber was born and raised in Louisville, KY. One of his first experiences working on lights was high above Central Park in Louisville at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor Douglas Ramey Amphitheater. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theater at Bradley University in Peoria, IL and a Master of Fine Arts degree in lighting design at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Lane has worked as a lighting designer on many community, university, and professional theatrical productions, including Selena Forever, the musical based on the late Tejano singer. He also has designed lighting for Sotheby’s Auction House, working with the New York firm Technical Artistry, and, with Rick Belzer, for a major exhibit of artifacts recovered from the shipwrecked Titanic that toured museums around the country. Currently, Lane works with the Lighting Design Group and serves as lighting designer for CNN Television in New York, where he is responsible for lighting such shows as Newsnight with Aaron Brown and Lou Dobbs’ Moneyline.

What
“At CNN, with Steve Brill, I am the person directly responsible for the visual lighting look of every show that comes out of our building. Aaron Brown’s show has a new set which we just designed the lighting for. Where TV and theater differ with regard to lighting is in the focus. In TV, I do news, talk shows, and the like, not drama. In TV, you make the talent [the person on camera] look good. For example, in TV news there can be no shadows. Theater is more creative. You look at how the show moves, how the action changes, the time of day in the play.”

When/Where
“Right now I’m doing news, so I work mainly evenings from 3:00 to 11:00. I can also get called in at the last minute. I usually work Monday to Friday, but right now I’m working six days a week. In theater, first you meet with the director and the set designer. You do a light plot and other paperwork at home. Then you meet with the director and run down the show. You create a paper rundown and mark it up with light cues. Then you come into the theater, usually with a crew, to hang and focus lights. In TV, a crew generally does that. Then, in theater, you’re sitting at a tech board out in the house during rehearsals, watching the lighting and checking cues. You’re generally not there after opening night. A week or two into the show, the design staff is gone—on to designing other shows.”

About the photo: Sparber is seen at the lighting board and on the set of CNN’s Lou Dobbs’ Moneyline.

About the photo: Sparber is seen at the lighting board and on the set of CNN’s Lou Dobbs’ Moneyline.


How
“My personal growth as a lighting designer has been the opposite of most people. The conceptual was the easier part for me; turning the ideas into reality was more difficult. You have to know how to be a diplomat—how to push for what you want without being overly pushy. You have to know how to talk to a client—the director, the producer—to know what to say and when. Talent will only get you so far. But you have to make the client feel at ease, show them you have the skills to do what they want. All the technology in the world and all the gadgetry you can come up with can’t make up for a bad idea. You have to master the technology. It can’t master you.”

Why
“My dad’s brother is a Broadway actor, so I got interested in theater. I acted for a while and eventually drifted out of that. I’ve always been addicted to heights, so I thought it would be fun to play with those lights up there. In theater, I love being able to create worlds with light, to move audiences to laughter or tears with lighting or lighting effects. In TV, I like the feeling that I’m doing something important. I bring the news to people.”

Getting There
“Since I was 9 years old, I’ve known what I wanted to do. You’ve got to get out and try to do it and observe it. Shadow people who do what you’re interested in. A lot of times you can’t learn this stuff in a classroom—you’ve got to volunteer. I gave away so much of my time just to learn things. When you choose a career in this field, you’re making the decision to be happy over being rich. But if your satisfaction in life comes from knowing that you’ve moved people, it’s a good decision. I’m very, very lucky.”

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Peggy Stamps: Choreographer

Lexington, KY
Who
Peggy Stamps is an award-winning choreographer for professional and community theater groups, including Actors Guild of Lexington, the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, Lexington Children’s Theatre, and the University of Kentucky departments of opera and theater. She also has choreographed and staged many opera productions, including the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s Porgy and Bess and the University of Kentucky’s production of The Tenderland, which was performed in the Czech Republic. Stamps has been a featured dance soloist with the American Spiritual Ensemble and has performed with the group on three tours of the United States and six tours of Spain. She has many stage, film, and TV credits in the United States and Canada. Stamps is a graduate of the Purdue University School of Engineering, and her “day job” is as an operations engineer at Lexmark Inc.

What
“When I hear music, I see a picture. My mother is a visual artist. When I was young and asked her, ‘Why can’t I draw?’ my mother said, ‘You paint pictures with your body. You paint pictures with people.’ A musical number in a play is used to express emotion—celebration or remorse, for example—and a choreographer’s job is to use the physical body to help interpret the emotion as it fits within the context of the play—to express that emotion using more than just verbal expression and take it to a level [where] words alone can’t take you.”

When/Where
“When I’m choreographing, I’m usually working evenings and weekends, in rehearsal halls and on stages. Sometimes I’m in a dance studio. It helps to have a room with mirrors like a dance studio, so the dancers can see what they’re doing, and the choreographer and dancers can all face in the same direction when they’re learning movements. The floor has to have some ‘give,’ like a gym floor. It’s better for the dancers’ backs and knees.”

How
“I work hand-in-hand with the director. Many Broadway shows now have director-choreographers [one person who does both jobs]. To do that, you really have to understand theater and character development as well. I also work closely with the stage manager. It’s helpful to have someone who knows how to take notes about movement, so when someone is missing from a rehearsal, the stage manager knows the spacing. I do a lot of my own costuming, which can also be very important in certain dance numbers…. It’s important for a choreographer to be knowledgeable about different periods in history and different cultures. For example, you might have to know how a woman would lift her skirt, how someone would sit down, and their body posture. You have to have danced at some point in your life—I don’t think I could name a choreographer who does not know how to dance. Sometimes you can describe to experienced dancers what to do, but sometimes you just have to be able to get up and show them yourself. The biggest challenge is getting dancers in community theater, who are not always used to the demanding routine of professional dancers, adjusted to the discipline of having to repeat movements over and over again in rehearsal.”

Why
“I just love music, and I love adding bodies to music—the music, the movement, the orchestra. I love the way all that fits together and adds to the picture on stage. What I like most is not actually seeing the final number up on the stage, it’s those little moments in rehearsal when you see it click, and the movement becomes the dancer’s.”

Getting There
“Take advantage of every opportunity you have to dance. There are free or inexpensive dance classes through community centers, the YMCA—even hula dancing or African dancing. Expose yourself to as many different dance forms as possible—not just ballet. Almost every community has a community theater. Look for the musicals. Audition, even if you only get to be in the back of the chorus and bounce up and down and sway. Those are free dance lessons. Junior highs and high schools, too. Whether it’s an experienced choreographer or the PE teacher, you’ll get experience. The only way is to dive into it and learn…. Music education is also important for a choreographer. You have to understand the structure of music—tempos, form, how the phrasing works. Get as much exposure to music as possible—high school chorus and band, for example. It’s good to be able to read music. When you’re teaching choreography, you have to be able to count out those patterns. And it also helps to be able to communicate with musicians. They want you to be able to speak their language.”

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Tom Tutino: Scenic Designer

Bowling Green, KY
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Who
Tom Tutino is associate professor of theater at Western Kentucky University, where he joined the faculty in 1990. He teaches set design and stagecraft, manages theater production classes, and serves as technical director of Western’s main stage productions. He also works as scenic designer for the Public Theatre of Kentucky in Bowling Green and for theater companies throughout Kentucky—such as Stage One in Louisville—and the eastern United States. He worked full-time as a musician for several years before settling on a career in the theater. Tutino has a Master of Fine Arts degree in scenic design from Boston University.

What
“The scenic designer’s job is to create an environment or a world for the action of the play to take place. It always starts with the script, reading the script. The world we create on stage might encompass any culture from any time period in history—or not in history at all, but something we’re creating as a fantasy.”

When/Where
“It can go any time of the day or night, and on a few occasions—hopefully few and far between—it is literally day and night when the deadlines get close. In terms of design work, which I do at home or in my studio, I work in the evenings when the rest of the day is finished and there are no distractions. That’s when I find myself most creative. For mechanical things like drafting [drawing blueprints of the set design], I work on that ‘normal work’ during the day, so I can deliver it to people who have to do the construction. I spend a week or so at the theater when the show goes into tech[nical rehearsal].”

How
“I work with the director and lighting, costume, and sound designers—that’s where the creative collaboration is—and also with the technical director, scenic artists, and props department. In one sense, the scenic designer ‘directs’ the play before the director does, because the scenery determines where the entrances and exits are, and so on. And to some degree, the director designs the show before the designer does, because the director is also thinking visually…. I like to read the script several times to see what it’s about. I try not to think about the design then. Ultimately, I make some very detailed notes—how many settings, doors and windows, special needs for furniture, props, scenic effects. Then I take that with me to the first meeting with the director. I try not to formulate any strong ideas until that first meeting, and we start talking about the design.”

Why
“One of my favorite things about the process is the collaborative part—working with the director and other designers. There is the excitement of continually working on new and different projects. It’s always a different production, even if it’s a play I’ve designed before. There are fresh minds to collaborate with. I always learn something new. My favorite part of the process is that initial period—coming up with the idea of what this play will be like on the stage. It’s just great fun.’”

Getting There
“It’s helpful to have traditional artistic skills—drawing, painting, sculpting. You have to be able to communicate ideas visually. You also have to be able to analyze the script and communicate ideas verbally. It also helps to have knowledge of art and architectural history—painting and furniture styles. We have to know a little bit about almost everything. It’s a continual learning process. I’m constantly building up my knowledge of history, art, and architecture…. Having some experience on stage [as an actor] is helpful for anyone working behind the scenes. I worked in summer theaters and as a scenic artist [someone who paints and decorates the set] and carpenter. I was also very interested in architecture. Unlike architecture, scenic design is ephemeral. But that’s one of the great things about live performance. No one else can ever have that same experience [as a single audience watching a specific performance].”

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Alan Velotta: Sound Designer

Lexington, KY
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Who
Alan Velotta, a native of Owensboro, KY, was just 15 when he became an apprentice/understudy at Horse Cave Theatre. He is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). In 2003 he won a “Smitty” (Raymond A. Smith Excellence in Theatre) Award from Actors Guild of Lexington for his sound design for the production of In the Garden of Live Flowers (see photo below). Besides designing sound for theater companies such as Actors Guild, the Theater Workshop of Owensboro, and Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alan spends much of his time producing regional folk and bluegrass artists for the independent label Studio C Music.

What
“A sound designer interprets what the script calls for through sound. Sound really gives life to the production. It adds another dimension. Most shows call for 10 to 15 sounds—from a telephone ringing to a door slamming—but that paled in comparison to what was called for in the Actors Guild of Lexington production of In the Garden of Live Flowers. This award-winning play about environmentalist Rachel Carson required 73 sound clips. It included things like ‘the sound of ants.’ Ants don’t make a sound, so we had to create a fantasy of what ants would sound like. The script also called for a clock ticking. I thought it would be more interesting to open with a cacophony of clock sounds.”

When/Where
“I start with a production meeting with all of the technical staff at about the same time that the actors have their first rehearsal. For In the Garden of Live Flowers, I would go to rehearsal once a week, and the rest of the week compile sound cues in my sound studio at home. The cast would come in to record voiceovers [recordings of actors speaking lines that are used in addition to the lines the actors say ‘live’ on stage during a performance]. Then, the next week, I would deliver the cues, and the actors would try them, and we would talk about adjustments for length and so on. Every week for five or six weeks I would deliver two CDs with more than 70 [sound] cues. There was a lot of trial and error. I had to produce 73 cues in 30 days, so I figured I had to record about six a day to pace myself. Knowing there’s a deadline keeps you motivated to finish early.”
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How
“I work with the director, actors, and the sound engineer—the person who actually runs the sound cues during every performance. You only get one chance when it’s live, so you have to work closely with the engineers. In some productions, the technical director will do the sound [during performances]. Most sounds are pre-recorded from sound effects or a sound library. What you can do is take those individual elements and layer them, so on one track there could be six elements. For example, a train interior could include interior sounds, plus a train whistle and a bellman’s call. The greatest challenge would be to make [the sound] something other than what’s expected. An alarm clock can be an electronic buzz going off, or the hammering bell of Big Ben, but being able to make it fit the time frame of the show, the characters, the setting—it’s very challenging to make your sounds fit the era and environment of the piece. It’s important to have a really good ear, to know what level creates the right mix without being too loud.”

Why
“I like best to see the final product. When I act in a show, I’m not able to see the performance until it’s on tape. When you design, you can eventually sit back and enjoy all your work.”

Getting There
“Study audio production. I have a radio background. I worked at a [professional] radio station all through high school, so I was familiar with all the sound equipment and recording.”

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Matt Wallace: Actor

Louisville, KY

About the photos: A professionally done “headshot” is a critical component of an actor’s portfolio, which is sent to casting directors.

About the photos: A professionally done “headshot” is a critical component of an actor’s portfolio, which is sent to casting directors.


Who
Matt Wallace grew up in Bowling Green in southcentral Kentucky. He started acting and working backstage with Fountain Square Theater, a community theater group, when he was just 8 years old. As a high school student, he attended the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, which led to an academic scholarship to Webster University in St. Louis, where he majored in theater. Wallace has been artistic director of Dolphin Back Theater Company in Chicago and has worked at Horse Cave Theatre (now the Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave). He is a member of the resident acting company at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and teaches acting and creative dramatics to young people as part of the festival’s educational outreach program. Matt also performs with Derby Dinner Playhouse in Jeffersonville, IN and acts in television commercials and films. He is proud to have appeared in the hit movie Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks.

What
“An actor’s job is to bring the playwright’s words to life. An actor is the link between the playwright, the director, and the audience—to tell the story.”

When
“It depends on where I’m working. At Derby Dinner Playhouse, we do eight to ten shows a week for several weeks. We rehearse during the day, then work nights and matinees once we’re open. On my days off, I’m teaching and auditioning for future work.”

Where
“I’m usually in the theater or in the classroom.”

How
“One challenge is dealing with the unpredictability of being an actor—not knowing what comes next in terms of work. The other big challenge is always making sure you’re trying to grow as an artist—making sure that you’re always improving what you do in terms of your professionalism and your artistic choices, rising to the part and discovering new things about yourself, not letting your own physical and emotional habits get in the way.”

Wallace is pictured at work, as Guildenstern in a production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival

Wallace is pictured at work, as Guildenstern in a production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival


Why
“I love the process of discovery—learning how to get your point across to an audience, getting inside what makes a character tick. You have to have good skills of observation, to know how other people behave. In Hamlet’s advice to the players, Shakespeare says, ‘Hold the mirror up to nature.’”

Getting There
“Start getting experience as soon as possible. There are so many opportunities: Do a school play, or propose one yourself. Definitely work in community theater, because you get to be with older people who are doing it. For me, to get to go to the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts was wonderful—to see that there were other people my age who were doing this, because being in theater wasn’t the cool thing to do. You should also experience life in ways that have nothing to do with theater. It makes you a more well-rounded individual and gives you experiences to draw on. And college training is important—you get the discipline, the awareness, the skills, and you learn how to be a professional—no matter how much talent you have.”

Wallace is pictured during his appearance in Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks. He had just one line in the film—but that’s how Hanks started, too!

Wallace is pictured during his appearance in Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks. He had just one line in the film—but that’s how Hanks started, too!

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