This week, Executive Producer Liz Clark sat down with long-time member Garth Watson to talk about his involvement with VOS.
Liz Clark: So Gartheroni – where did that nic name come from anyway?
Garth Watson: Liz, you gave me that name.
LC: You’re the VOS Set Construction Crew Chief and you’ve designed for us as well. You’re working with Jim Finan on On the Rooftop. Any challenges?
GW: We got NEW WOODSCREWS!!!!! Yeah!!!!!
The folks who have helped with the sets over the years have been great people with which to work. I like it when everyone generates ideas on how to build the set pieces; everyone has a different ways of looking at things and some will work, some won’t. Working with Alan over the years is scary; we are like the right and left hands on this giant machine, with each of us knowing what each other is thinking, and the next move. Jim is full of ideas and construction talents; he is becoming the 3rd hand (really scary, good for Frankenstein, though). Jim takes a task and runs with it.
Everyone that contributes, whether it is the “teamsters” who haul the set during move-in/move-out, or the “carpenters” who help, all hands make the work easier (techie cake helps, as well). The backstage folks support the actors and it is great to see the actors support the backstage people.
LC: What looks like the most fun right now?
GW: As always, the people. We are all from different walks of life, and of all ages, but we come together like a family to perform the best show we can muster for our audience.
LC: You started with the VOS onstage and transitioned to full time set and props construction pretty quickly. I take it you decided you would rather work with power tools than be a part of a kick line?
GW: I have been working with carpentry tools since I was 3 (OMG! that’s over half a century). It is something that I have a talent, which I enjoy, and for which I am appreciated (everybody needs a thank you every now and then). It has restored my sanity after a few rough spots in life, for which I am eternally grateful.
LC: On most of the shows I’ve produced you have been my set construction crew chief. The things that stick out in my mind is the little boat that moved across the back of the stage in Pinafore, the cow in Into the Woods, the running water in the wash station in Steel Magnolias. What’s your favourite on stage set piece over the past 20 years?
- The Piano in “White Christmas” (manufactured by the D(ead) M(ouse) Piano Company)
- The Trojan Rabbit in “Spamalot” (we can’t do Spam without a trojan rabbit)
- The Cow (Milky White) in “Into The Woods”
- The entire “Kiss Me Kate” set (especially the BIG Phone Booth)
- The Tree in “Oklahoma”
Editor’s Note: The Boats in “Pinafore” got applause in one of the performances.
Al Blair (God bless) was the brains behind the running water in “Steel Magnolias”, and we worked together to make it work.
LC: You’re no ordinary set dude. You live in Peterborough yet you’ll drive down to Cobourg to see the cast and crew and just check in and see how rehearsals are going? How come? You love us right?
GW: Yes, love, companionship and support of the VOS family. I like to attend the rehearsals to see how hard people are working to perfect the show and to show support. The first rehearsal I am wondering “Did we bite off too much”, but by the end, it is an amazing transformation to a slick, professional performance. The reverse is true as well, when the actors come out to the barn to see where we are at with the set. We just don’t show up for move-in and it is amazingly built. When we have the tunes on, you may also get to see a kick line with power tools.
LC: What excites you about the upcoming season both from a set perspective and an organizational point of view. You are a long standing board member after all.
GW: Sets… For OTRT and Shirley, the sets are fixed and fairly simple, so it lets the actors be the “stars” of the show.
For Shrek and Young Frank, unknown. We will have to build it. Ogre-sized and Franken-sized. Raise the grid to 18 feet?
Organizational POV… We have a combination of experienced people in key positions, along with new people to VOS and those returning to the stage and other areas with VOS. As always, great people.
On the organization side, we are partnering roles between 2 members, which will help greatly to reduce the workload, but also to generate another set of eyes and ideas.
LC: What’s your dream set? I mean if you could build any set with one condition, it has to work in Victoria Hall in Cobourg, what would it be?
The pinball machine would rise hydraulically out of the stage floor for Pinball Wizard and with every light instrument flashing and lighting the entire hall like a giant pinball machine. A huge screen would be above the grid, with the flashing lights and numbers of the old-style pinball machine being projected upon it.
For closing night, a guest pianist would arrive on a platform with the grand piano (doesn’t Elton John have a connection to Cobourg?), but for all of the other performances, George would definitely have to perform the original acoustic guitar arrangement.
LC: You and I are quite often the last people in the Concert Hall on move in day, well except for the dude in the booth writing the lighting cues. We generally find each other sitting, exhausted, in the bleachers and nine times out of ten we just sit for ten minutes and stare at the stage. For me it’s a moment to revel in how much a few people can achieve in one day and a review of what still has to be accomplished before opening night. It also feels like the last quiet moment the room is all ours before the cast and crew fly in to create their magic. What are you thinking about?
GW: I’M POOPED!!
Usually, I am looking at how beautiful the set designers, painters and decorators have made a bunch of lumber and canvas into a realistic structure/piece. I am also thinking of the blind guy in far corners of the bleachers, who will see all of our errors and what we have yet to cover, so that there are no glaring problems with the set that could upstage the actors.