Some people love the theater, because it gives them a chance to be on stage—to be the star. I love it, too. But I have no interest in being out there in front of the audience. My place in theater is behind the scenes, creating the world that the stars perform in.
I’ve been doing lighting, sound and projection for theater since I was on the stage crew in high school, (I’m the guy on the right in this old photo), then as a school technology teacher and at Busch Gardens for Howl-O-Scream.
I came across the James McCabe Theater and the Valrico Village Players probably 10 years ago. It’s just a couple minutes away from my home. I was busy with the high school theater where I worked and with Busch Gardens theater operations at the time, so I was interested in it and attended a couple of shows, but was too busy to get involved with this community theater.
When I retired a couple of years ago, I decided it would be a good time to ask if they needed help with any of the technical operations. They were very welcoming. It turned out there was a lot that needed doing, and everyone else who was chipping in to keep it running was glad to have more help.
We only present one-set plays and we re-use everything! Sometime we have to be very inventive in how we construct or configure our various stage effects. I really enjoy this, because I love to invent ways to do things.
There are so many ways to be inventive with set design and special effects. Sometimes we can find ideas online and adjust them to work with what we need to do and with what we already have in various hardware and other materials to make it happen. Sometimes we just brainstorm ideas, try them out, and get lucky!
I designed and built the set for Wait Until Dark for the Players, then did the lighting design. Now I’m running the lights at each show. We’ve already done three of the shows in a short eight-show run, and everything is looking good. Wait Until Dark starts out a little shady, gets brighter when the cheerful leading lady is in the room, then gets darker and darker as the villain hatches his plot until we’re down to single points of light. Really dark!
I had help building the set from a couple of other retirees. Like OLLI, it’s an activity that fills our abundant free time with something that we really enjoy doing. One of the other retirees is also acting in the play.
I do all my playing behind the scenes. Most of the enjoyment for me in this activity is in finding ways to build what’s needed by repurposing simple set pieces and various small hardware items. One of the actors came up with a couple inventive solutions too. My favorite is for when he “throws” a knife and it appears to end up stuck in a wall! (If you come to see the play, catch me backstage after the final curtain, and I’ll show you how it works.)
I consider myself so lucky to have the opportunity to contribute my time and expertise in theater technology to this nearby theater! I’ve made many new friends and worked on projects ranging from set design and construction to lighting, sound, projection, and various projects to reorganize and update the facility.
I’ve met former military personnel, school employees, and many others with various degrees of experience in the various needs of the theater. We are a “teaching theater” too, so we work with both high school and college students as well.
If you’re intrigued—even a little—by community theater, come see us. Again–as with OLLI–only the desire to learn is needed. There are so many projects and positions involved in putting on a show that there is always room for someone to learn.
He prefers to work backstage. But if the Valrico Village Players ever stage MacGyver, Peter Terzian would be perfect for the lead role. He’s been creating sets, props, and theatrical effects with little or no equipment or budget since high school. He’s also found time to become an expert in the art of brewing craft beer, a subject on which he has taught an OLLI course that we profiled in a previous OLLI Connects post.
The Valrico Village Players’ production of Wait Until Dark runs through August 24, and Peter really would like to show you how the “thrown knife” effect works. But you may have to be persuasive to get his autograph. You can see the Valrico Village Players website here and their Facebook page here.