You may have already answered this in your head – “They are stuck at home. Like you, doofus.” And I would answer back yes, but… I didn’t see them before the mess we’re in right now either.
I consider myself a tinkerer. I sort of always have been but when I started my career in theatre it became clear that my tendencies towards futzing with things or building things from nothing, would be valuable and encouraged here. Honestly, it’s probably the biggest reason I’ve worked as much and as long as I have in this industry.
In college, I studied to be a painter but got entirely transfixed with three-dimensional art by my junior year where I learned to deal with space and different materials in a way I hadn’t before. I learned additive and subtractive methods – welding, wood, ceramics, stonework, casting. This gave me a foundation in the building of props and scenery.
I also really got into computers in college even going so far as to be a tutor for computer classes. And while design software wasn’t very advanced and there wasn’t entertainment control software to speak of, it meant I was going to be really comfortable working in a computerized environment later on.
When I left college and got my first professional theatre job at Cortland Repertory Theater in Upstate New York as a Performing Intern we were required to work in a different shop for each show along with our rehearsal and performing duties. This is pretty standard practice in many educational programs as well as intern opportunities. And while some folks had a tough time in one department of another (or maybe all of them, divas), I felt really engaged and comfortable in all of them – props, costumes, scenery, lights, sound.
As I learned the ins and outs of what a career in theatre would be like I quickly realized that if I wanted to work all the time I needed to make sure I could do everything. And so I do. And sometimes acting jobs got me tech jobs, sometimes tech jobs landed me on stage, sometimes stage-managing led to production management. When I haven’t worked in theatre it’s almost always been because I chose not to. By the way, I’ve never chosen to be a waiter. It’s the hardest job I can imagine. People are mean when it comes to food. I guess we’re still cave dwellers in our stomachs.
A tinkerer, to me, has an insatiable desire to learn new things, new skills, new ways of thinking. We’ve got a few at RLT but they’re generally older. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I keep wondering where the new ones are. Are they tinkering in a different world?
About the author:
Chad Sweet worked professionally as an actor, director, and designer in theaters across the country and in Mexico for a decade before moving to Reno in 2004. After taking a hiatus to start a business and paint full time, he returned to theater in 2010 first acting then making the leap to Producing Artistic Director of Good Luck Macbeth for three years until landing at RLT. Some highlights of his career include FOLLIES at Paper Mill Playhouse (1998) working with Stephen Sondheim, Ann Miller, Jerry Mitchell, Donna McKechnie, and Tony Roberts among others; touring the U.S. with educational theater shows for over two years; and spending many beautiful summers at Cortland Repertory Theatre, The New London Barn Playhouse, and The New Harmony Playhouse. He currently serves on the Marketing Committee for the Reno Arts and Culture Commission.