Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Paul Dake, Actor Extraordinaire

For our next entry, we turn to Montgomery Theater actor extrodinaire Paul Dake. Last seen in Bus Stop, Paul also works on our Marketing Committee and is generally just a presence to reckon with!

For the past 10 years I have fondly referred to Montgomery Theater as my home away from home. Every time I walk through that stage door I feel comfortable, happy, excited and welcome. I get a sense of belonging when I see Tom Quinn and he smiles and says, “Hey Paulie!” You see, I view it as an honor and privilege to be part of the MT family. Over the years I have learned so much about acting for the stage, what it means to be an actor, what it means to tell the story, what true artistic collaboration is and how that experience, time and time again, is one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. Many times I have also said that I would be content to only ever work at Montgomery Theater. While still enjoyable, other theater experiences I have had simply cannot compare. At MT, artists, technical experts and staff are all viewed as equal partners in the creative process. Everyone’s individual input is valued and welcomed. The audiences continually express their satisfaction by returning again and again to experience the stories being told during what we sometimes refer to as “Magic Time.” When it all comes together – the story, the actors, the audience – it truly is magic. For there is nothing quite like a live theater performance. The actors live on the edge! No two performances are the same! No two audiences are the same! It’s a fantastic, mesmerizing, wholly gratifying event each and every time! You see, I am a 100% fully biased advocate of Montgomery Theater because my involvement there has truly changed my life.

--Paul Dake

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cameron Purdy - Technical Director -

Today's entry is from our incredibly talented technical director Cameron Purdy. Don't believe him when he says he doesn't know what he's doing. He is a wiz at bringing any and all set designs to life. In the pictures he added at the end, just remember those photos are all on the same stage - the changes are incredible!

My name is Cameron Purdy, and I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t mean that in a cosmic, metaphysical sense, though that may also be true. More to the point, I am a technical director with no technical training, and I make it up as I go along.
Some background on me. When I was a lad, I started tinkering with bicycles, then graduated to lawnmowers, then motorcycles, and eventually cars and electronics. Somewhere in the middle of all that, lumber and power tools came into the mix. I joined a local community theater about 20 years ago, and found a home for all the fledgling skills I so wanted to explore when I was 24. The neat thing about the stage, for me, was that even if you weren’t all that great a carpenter, no one was going to see it from 40 feet away. So, I could hone my skills without the pressure or repercussions of a discriminating eye. And hone them I did. Over the next 15+ years, the miters got tighter, the doors slammed more solidly, and the designs got more intricate. Pulleys and ropes and flashpots and cantilevered platforms and battery operated carts with whirligigs and lights came and went and were torn down and disposed of. But never forgotten.
And now, I find myself technical Director for Montgomery Theater. A title that I still, to this day, am not sure applies to what I do. I build what other people draw. Sounds simple enough. But the people that design for us are very good. And they assume I am too. Well, I’m not about to show them otherwise. And every designer that comes my way teaches me something wonderful. I learned about making moldings with block foam. I learned how to simulate wood grain with latex paint. I learned about MDF, and all its wonderful possibilities. I learned how not to build and drive a 14 foot rotating platform stage. I grew brave and purchased fine woodworking tools, and laser levels, and air driven framing and finish nailers. I sculpted an entire stage with spray foam. I cut a pickup truck in half.

So, as long as I approach every day as if I know nothing, I will be a dry sponge, ready to absorb and learn and grow from anyone with skills and knowledge to impart. I am constantly humbled, and inspired by the talent, and joy I see in the people who have chosen the art of stage as their life’s work.

If this works, the next things you’ll see are a few photos of some projects I’m very proud of. Projects that scared the heck out of me, and then, somehow, fell beautifully into place.

7 Year Itch. I think this was my first time laying down a “hard wood” floor. ¼” luan plywood, with stain and latex poly topcoat. It turned out so beautifully; I wondered why I didn’t have it in my house. That is, until the first time someone dragged a chair across it and gouged it.

This is the border for 7 Year itch. It took 4 people about three days to make each piece by hand, and set them in place. This is about 500 pieces.

Batboy, the Musical. This set scared the hell out of me. I had this bright idea to sculpt the whole thing with chicken wire, and hose it down with spray foam to create a cave look. I convinced everyone else I knew what I was doing. Fools! It actually worked, but not without a lot of sleepless nights.

Bus Stop. This set was made up of so many individually made pieces, from the stones to the diagonal paneling, to the flooring. We just kept cutting and nailing and cutting and nailing and nailing!

That silhouette was so friggin’ cool! It changed color from dawn to dusk. If you look really close, you can see the telephone wires USR. The pump head CS was purchased new on Ebay, sandblasted, then sprayed with muriatic acid. In 12 hours, it looked like it had been outside for 100 years.
The house fa├žade had a cedar shake roof.

Rounding Third. In case anyone thinks stagecraft is all about lumber. We needed the coach’s truck onstage. So, one trip to the local scrap yard, and about 45 minutes with a gas powered canine saw, and voila! Half a truck. Cut the wheels and tires in half too. Probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a junkyard truck.

Spinning into Butter. I was just so happy with the woodwork on this one. The designer really challenged me with the compound miters, and the ornate crown moldings. That’s 2” block foam, stacked with sculpted MDF. The desk is all hand made with MDF, with a really great wood grain paint effect applied by the scenic artist.
Cameron Purdy
Technical Director,
Montgomery Theater
Souderton, PA

Monday, February 8, 2010

Below you'll find our first actor-penned entry to the MT blog. Written by Liza Weil, this post is a reminder of what a great small theater can mean to an early career actor. Liza now lives in LA and has a career in film & TV (and is most recognizable from her 7 years of playing Paris Geller on the WB show the Gilmore Girls), but serves on the Montgomery Theater Board of Directors and has come back here periodically to work on our stage.
Read on. . .

I started working at Montgomery Theater in 1993, the year it opened its doors. I was 16 and knew I wanted to be an actor, but didn't have a true place to go and be one. Montgomery Theater became my safe haven. At MT, I worked with true theater artists in a community that was hungry for good stories and good storytelling. It was here that I learned what it meant to be an artist: the discipline, the passion, the work ethic, the things that Montgomery Theater has always had in spades. MT is a place where actors come to do challenging work with like-minded artists.

Although I valued my experiences there, it wasn't until I ventured to New York and Los Angeles – a step made possible by the confidence I gained working at MT – that I realized what a lucky young actor I had been. Many of my peers, from small towns and big cities alike, had never been exposed to – let alone been given an opportunity to work at – such a quality theater. There are only a handful of theaters in America that exist and thrive in small towns, let alone with such consistent excellence. Well into my life as a professional actor in film and television, I continue to find my way back to MT to work. I still consider Montgomery Theater to be my artistic home.

--Liza Weil

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Montgomery Theater is blogging!

Welcome to Montgomery Theater's latest addition. In conjunction with the first performance of the 2010 season, we are inaugurating our blog, so pop out the champagne and celebrate the start of great new things here at MT!

This will be a forum for people involved in the great theater making here at MT to talk about the what, whys and hows of what they do every day. We hope it will give you insight into the behind-the-scenes process and create a richer experience for all those of you who come and watch our shows.

In February and March of 2010 we are celebrating the wonderful actors who work on Montgomery Theater's stages, so over the next few weeks we'll be posting entries from several MT actors from past and present seasons. We look forward to sharing with you!