Longview Theater – Stageworks Northwest and what I do here!
The Longview Theater located in Longview, Washington, was built in the late 1930s in the Art Deco style as a movie house with one screen and a (whoohoo) balcony. Over the years, the theater has changed hands and been many different venues. Prior to Stageworks taking possession of the theater a few years ago, it was operating as an indoor skateboard park – really! – and live music space for the teen set. Unfortunately the last tenants really trashed the inside (ripped out the seats, added numerous ramps and basically painted graffiti on everything. This meant it was going to take some serious elbow grease to make the space usable again for theater. With the creation of an operating board of directors, and folks who know how to write grants, the theater has begun to slowly comeback to it’s roots.
What lead me here:
I had prior experience with community theater and the set design process from 2 years of performances with the Shoestring Players Theater Group of St. Helens, Oregon. It also helped that I had worked as a commercial artist for more than 10 years so I possessed a wide background of large-scale mural and decorative painting skills. The key things about community theater for me is that I have always loved the collaboration, the variety of people you get to work with, and the absolutely crazy projects you get caught up in that are part and parcel of the world of drama. I also really love to paint big and there just aren’t that many avenues for that kind of work, so this is kind of a no-brainer for me. Plus, doing this was good for my art psyche and even better, good karma since I could share and mentor with those who wanted to learn the set design craft and continue the tradition but didn’t know how.
Since March 2013 I have been part of the prestigious Resident Artist Program for Stageworks Northwest, a local for-profit theater company, located in Longview, Washington. As the Scenic Paint Master my job is to collaborate with the director in designing a working stage design that creates a trans-formative environment without the aid of curtains or normal canvas backdrops.
Operating as a theater-in-the-round poses some very interesting design challenges. In addition to the designing process, I am the Lead Painter and create the actual set with a wide variety of painting techniques. I also organize other artists and production staff to create the final look and direct the creation of major props for the shows.
Currently I am working on building up my production staff and am creating a series of technique workshops that will help train interested paintees and demonstrate that painting is not magic – it’s the process! (Well, it’s magic, but that the skills can be learned!) And it’s a hoot to be part of a massive 3D, performance-based piece of art! Who wouldn’t sign on for that?