Let’s say the script calls for a moonlit tryst to end at dawn with the execution of the lovers. The challenge is to move the audience from euphoria to grief, show the passage of night and create chaos out of tranquility all in a few moments. Teamwork kicks in, and the challenges are met through the collaboration of people with artistic concerns and those with technical skills.
“There are no soloists,” says Suzayn MacKenzie-Roy ’08, who has returned to Oswego as facilities manager following three years on tour as stage manager with Fiddler on the Roof and as star liaison for Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth. “Theatre is a collaborative art. We all ask ourselves, ‘How do you tell the story?’” she says.
“Once the creative team steps aside, it’s time for us technical people to make it happen,” explains Oswego Theatre Department’s electronics specialist, Greg Brewster ’05, who worked on national tours of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables. “We need to create that magical moment for the audience members without their ever being aware of our work.”
MacKenzie-Roy mentions Oswego’s spring 2014 production of Young Frankenstein, in which a panel drops down and the action continues in front of it. “Nobody sees the hectic costume and prop changes, the swirl of activity going on behind that panel,” she says. MacKenzie-Roy and Brewster say they are teaching at their alma mater because they want to nurture the next generation of Oswego theatre students in a program that encourages exploration and promotes teamwork and trust.
Rebekkah Meixner-Hanks ’00 also shares Oswego’s legacy. She is a professor at Indiana University Southeast, where she is chair of the theatre department and resident scenic and lighting designer. With a long list of credits for dozens of shows in key regional theaters, she says every company is different, but any successful production calls for constant communication among artistic and technical teams. She attributes her success—including a full scholarship to the University of Louisville for an MFA and her career at IU—to her undergraduate experience at Oswego.
Meixner-Hanks names a litany of mentors: Kitty Macey, Mark Cole ’73, the late Ron Medici, Jon Vermilye ’66, Bill Stark ’68 and Johan Godwaldt. “It was Johan who was hell bent on giving us a graduate-level education at an undergraduate school,” she says. “I have reaped the benefits of that philosophy, and I have modeled my program on what worked so well at Oswego.”
As for bringing the script to life on the stage? Brewster sums up the tech team’s overriding goal: “The suspension of disbelief—that’s what we work for,” he says.
—Linda Loomis ’90 M’97