MEET THE STAFF MONDAYS


We'd LOVE to introduce you to some of the incredibly talented people who put in immense amounts of time and effort to ensure that audiences, like you, can see our incredible productions at TTIP. Many of these people aren't always visible to audiences, so we're taking time on Mondays for the rest of our 2016 season to let YOU meet them!!!

 



WHO KEEPS THE FRONT OF HOUSE RUNNING AT TTIP?

Kevin Ash is the Assistant House Manager at Theatre in the Park.  He started working here when he was 14 years old as a member of the house staff.  He worked there doing everything from taking tickets to directing traffic in the parking lot for five years before being promoted into his current role.

Now, Kevin is typically the first person to arrive at the theatre on show or movie nights.  He unlocks the gates and turns on the breakers in the restrooms before checking the list of who is scheduled to work in the front of house that night and making sure that their tasks are appropriately assigned.  Once he has finished all of the preparations on his side of the stage, he will check in with Production Manager Sarah Saugier (who you can read more about in our 1st Meet the Staff Monday post) to ensure that the team backstage is ready for the house to open. 

If given the go ahead, Kevin and his team will open the gates and switch into customer service mode.  This includes things like greeting patrons, answering questions, and collecting trash and recycling as well as checking on fellow staff members.  Kevin stays updated on everyone’s progress via radio, and he also makes rounds to deliver water and cooling bandanas to any staff member who needs them throughout the night. 

The tasks needed to be done always keep Kevin busy during his time at the theatre.  The atmosphere in the theatre bowl “changes from night to night,” as the group of people in attendance is different every evening.  The other thing that changes every evening is the weather.  Kevin and his team “always have to be watching” the forecasts in order to ensure the safety f everyone at the theatre.  If everything goes smoothly, Kevin hopes that patrons will have an “overall positive experience” with “friendly staff and good vibes.” 

So next time you attend a performance, look for Kevin has he makes his rounds around the theatre throughout the night, and take a moment to appreciate everything he does to maintain smooth sailing at Theatre in the Park!


 



WHO IS IN THE ORCHESTRA FOR THE 50TH TIME AT TTIP?

Jerry Old is one of our French horn players for Mary Poppins, but over the last 22 years he’s become a bit of a fixture at Theatre in the Park.  Mary Poppins is the 50th production he has played in the orchestra for at TTIP!

Jerry comes from a musical family.  Both of his parents had their own bands in high school, and he began playing music at an early age.  After beginning to play the piano when he was very young, he had to choose an instrument they already had in the house when he joined his middle school band.  After trying out saxophone, he decided on his father’s mellophone in 7th grade.  Two years later, he moved to the French horn and has been playing it ever since. 

Jerry has played in numerous pits for shows as well as orchestras all over the world, from Kansas City to Los Angeles to Saudi Arabia!  He currently plays in 5 orchestras throughout KC in addition to the pits of various musicals across the area.  Pit orchestras are different from traditional orchestras, in his opinion.  In an orchestra, you rehearse meticulously so that every performance is exactly the same with no room for change.  In the pit orchestra of a musical, however, “everyone in the pit needs to know how to tap dance” because you will often need to regroup in order to match the timing of what the actors are doing on stage. 

According to Jerry, the thing that keeps him coming back to the pit orchestra is the people.  There is a “cadre of musicians in Kansas City” who he plays with regularly.  Some of these musicians who impress him the most are the younger musicians who are still studying their instruments at universities.  “It’s really an honor to play with the kids,” says Jerry, because they’re “creative, smart, and fun to be around…they keep me young.”  Jerry also has a list of conductors he will always agree to play for, no matter the project.  That list of conductors includes Marsha Canaday, music director and conductor of Mary Poppins.  Jerry says that smart conductors like Marsha are “well ahead of the game” because they think far in advance when scheduling their musicians.  Sometimes, Jerry will be committed to his summer projects as far in advance as the previous November!

It is truly the people that Jerry loves about this job.  In fact, when asked if he had a favorite score to play he replied, “My favorite show is typically the one I’m playing at the time!”  He did admit that one of his favorite projects he’s worked on in his career was last year’s performance of Shrek, which was co-produced by the Jewish Community Center and Theatre in the Park just like Mary Poppins!

So when you visit Theatre in the Park to see Mary Poppins now through August 6, wave to Jerry in the pit and listen for the sounds of his beautiful French horn!


 



WHO KEEPS THE THEATRE LOOKING BEAUTIFUL?

Craig Shafar is the horticulturist at Theatre in the Park.  He has been working with plants since high school, when he worked in a garden center.  From there, he went on to Northwest Missouri State to earn a degree in horticulture before spending sixteen years as the horticulturist for the City of Raytown.  Three years ago, he moved to the Johnson County Park and Recreation District and Theatre in the Park. 

When he came from Raytown to the Park, he was pleased to find that he had an increased budget and access to the “right equipment” to do the job.  That job entails maintaining the theatre and pavilion by cultivating the flowerbeds and mowing the lawns.  This year, Craig is also tasked with treating the ash trees in and around the park via injection for emerald ash borer to ensure that all of the plant life is healthy and continues to grow beautifully.  In doing all this with his team, Craig is very hands on.  He continues to weed and mow and do “all the grunt work” himself.  He also does this work within any of the parks and golf courses under the Johnson County Park and Recreation District umbrella—not just Shawnee Mission Park and Theatre in the Park! 

Of all the things he does at Theatre in the Park, Craig is most proud of the flowers.  They tend to get the most notice from patrons, so he takes great care to ensure that they are always well maintained.  He plants different combinations every season so that the look of the theatre’s plant life is different every season, just like the lineup of shows on stage is different every year.  This year, he’s trying a brand new combination:  pink and black flowers in the round planters near the box office, stage, and concessions stand.  You don’t see black flowers too often, but Craig has balanced them perfectly with their bright pink counterparts, and he takes wonderful care of them.


Craig hopes that patrons view Theatre in the Park as a “visually pleasing place to come to.”  He does his part by keeping the plants well maintained to help the theatre stay as beautiful as possible.  He believes that Theatre in the Park is a “great place to come…a great venue to bring your family,” and hopes that patrons continue to do so in the years to come!

So next time that you’re at Theatre in the Park, take some time to stop and look around at the beautiful flowers and to appreciate the man who planted them!


 



WHO CREATED JOSEPH’S AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT?

Arwen White is the costume designer for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  She is also the founder of Juste Jaquet Designs and has designed costumes for many venues in and around Kansas City in addition to work for Norwegian Cruise Line.  She joined the theatre world when she started singing and dancing when she was tiny and continued to do so for ten years before moving into costuming in high school.  She then attended UMKC’s program for costume design and ended up taking several graduate courses as an undergraduate student!  From there, she became a professional designer and has been doing it ever since!

When Arwen works on a show, there are several things she has to consider outside of what the script simply calls for.  She does large amounts of research to ensure that the pieces she chooses “make sense in context” and in the social construct of the time period when the show is set.  She also works with the other members of the creative team—the lighting and set designers, the director, and more—to maintain a coherent overall vision of the production with her costumes.  But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Arwen’s job as costumer is working directly with the performers and adapting her designs to their different body types and personalities.  People are inherently sensitive about the way they look, so Arwen tends to serve a double purpose as both costumer and “therapist and emotional caregiver” when needed. 

On a show like Joseph… there’s a lot going on in terms of costumes.  Arwen developed and communicated what the 62 members of the children’s cast needed to bring to wear from the show, and then she created the looks for the adult cast.  There are 26 adult actors who each have a minimum of four looks within the show, and none of their costumes have been rented from pre-existing sets of Joseph… costumes available from local costume shops.  Because of this, Arwen’s process began as far back as April for this production, and she’s constantly been working to ensure that everything is completed in a timely manner.  In her words, “making sure I’m on top of everything is paramount!” 

Cast changes kept her on her toes while constructing several garments, and the challenge of designing looks that could be worn outdoors in the heat influenced her choices of fabrics throughout the process.  Another major task Arwen completed for this show was building Joseph’s coat from scratch!  Creating a “dazzling coat of many colors” is no small feat, but Arwen pulled it off beautifully!  When patrons see the show, Arwen believes that “if they don’t mention [her costumes]” then she’s done a good job.  She doesn’t want the costumes to pull focus but rather prefers that they blend seamlessly into the storytelling of the show as a whole. 

So when you see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Theatre in the Park July 20-23, take a moment to marvel at the costumes worn by the entire cast and to appreciate all the hard work put in by Arwen White to make those costumes a reality!!!


 



WHO MAKES SURE YOU CAN HEAR THE CAST AND ORCHESTRA?

Josh Koan is an employee at Harvest Productions who also serves as Principal Sound Designer and Operator at Theatre in the Park.  After playing in bands in high school and college, Josh knew sound well.  This prompted him to pursue engineering degrees to continue working in sound professionally.  Since then, he has run audio systems in venues across Kansas City, such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  Three seasons ago, the team at Harvest Productions thought Josh would be a good fit for TTIP, and he’s been with us ever since.

At TTIP, Josh’s work started before the season begins when he and his team load in and process the PA sound system and wireless microphones.   From there, he works on each show individually to program the design of the show in a way that facilitates the audience’s ability to hear the cast and orchestra in a balanced way.  Of course, there are some challenges of working outdoors that Josh has learned to work with.  From dealing with heat and sweat and how that can affect mics as actors sweat their mic tape off, or from trying to minimize the sounds of the wind blowing across mics, Josh has learned to overcome these challenges and continues to learn new ways to do so.

In addition to running sound for TTIP and other venues, Josh also educates kids about sound.  He hopes that those who attend the arts in Kansas City will simply enjoy the sound—whether they are educated about it or not.  In fact, in regard to patrons’ perceptions of the sound, Josh says, “In an ideal world, the should not notice me much.”  Instead, he prefers that they focus on how good the performers and the orchestra sound, not how good the mics sound. 

But above all, Josh hopes that more people come out to experience the theatre.  He doesn’t see TTIP as an inexpensive getaway for families, but rather he perceives the theatre as “the highest level of show that you can get anywhere else.”  Josh hopes that people agree and that they come to TTIP in huge numbers—“the biggest crowd humanly possible.”  Some people prefer to perform for more intimate groups of a couple hundred, but Josh thrives on larger crowds of closer to a thousand.

So next time you’re heading to TTIP, bring your friends with you to help grow that crowd, and take a moment to appreciate all of Josh’s hard work on the sound as he runs the show from the tech bunker!


 



WHO SUPERVISES ALL TICKET SALES?

Alex Council is our Box Office Manager at Theatre in the Park.  He first started working in the box office when he took his first summer job at age fourteen.  Nineteen seasons later, Council now runs the box office throughout the season. 

Today, Council’s job encompasses supervising the sale of all tickets, facilitating any problems that arise, and handling the money from transactions.  After spending so much time working his way up in the box office, none of his duties came as a surprise to him.  He was already a seasoned professional when he took on the title of Box Office Manager.  He witnessed the evolution of the box office from selling $2 admission tickets off of a roll like the ones frequently used by carnivals to the current computerized system, which allows for a more sophisticated box office experience.

Despite the fact that TTIP is an outdoor theatre, many of the challenges associated with the environment do not faze Council.  The box office is climate controlled, so he considers himself one of the lucky few that don’t have to brave the varying elements each night at TTIP.  His evenings are always the same temperature.  That doesn’t mean that Council can completely avoid nature, like employees of traditional indoor theatres.  He has learned to deal with wasps that buzz around the windows of the box office.  He also knows that the box office will require a thorough cleaning at the beginning of each season, due to being left unoccupied for the fall, winter, and spring.  But that layer of dust is hardly enough to prevent Council and his team from diving in and getting the season started off right!

Council hopes that patrons visiting TTIP are able to view the theatre as a “place where people go to just be happy.”  He loves seeing groups come out early to eat a picnic and toss a Frisbee.  Because this theatre’s pre-show atmosphere is very different from the typical indoor theatre, Council views it as purely a “happy place to be” while spending time with friends and family and taking in a fantastic production.

And, if you’re lucky, you might even get to see Council taking place in the productions!  He has played cello in several orchestras at TTIP, starting with the 2000 production of Oklahoma! He most recently played for last year’s West Side Story.  Council’s involvement with the theatre from these multiple angles proves just how happy a place he truly believes Theatre in the Park can be.

So next time you visit Theatre in the Park, stop by the box office to purchase your tickets and say hello to Alex!


 



WHO IS THE NEXUS OF COMMUNICATION FOR THE ENTIRE PRODUCTION?

April Kobetz is the Stage Manager for our 2016 production of Mary Poppins. She is no stranger to Theatre in the Park, having stage managed several past shows including Shrek and Tom Sawyer. However, before becoming a stage manager April was a performer in high school. After performing for a while, she switched to tech one year in order to earn a credit to graduate; she’s remained in the backstage world ever since. She continued to hone her craft at the University of Maryland, where she had the opportunity to work with professional stage managers from Actors Equity Association and learn in the moment from difficult productions like 2002’s Polaroid Stories that required her to think incredibly quickly on her feet.

A stage manager has a long list of responsibilities for each production. The two best-known aspects of the job are running rehearsals and calling the show (sitting in the tech bunker and calling cues so that actors and crew members know when to start the show, change the lights, start playing a sound effect, etc.). But April’s job also requires constantly sending emails to the cast, crew, and creative team; attending production meetings, writing and sending out rehearsal and meeting reports, creating schedules and 20-30 other types of paperwork per show, gathering and distributing information, setting up and running auditions, and taking over the task of maintaining the artistic integrity and vision of the show once opening night has passed and the director is gone. Still, stage managers are largely unrecognized by the general population. “Most people think I’m a secretary,” said April.

April puts in long hours to make sure that the show goes on in the best and safest way possible—often accumulating 40 hours per week (once you factor in 20-25 hours of rehearsal plus all the additional effort) in addition to her “day job.” She enjoys having the time to find the rhythm of the show with the cast, but still knows that there will be split-second decisions that have to be made. She has to be detail-focused throughout the process in order to best protect the actors and advocate for the show. There’s a lot of “little things you think of” so you have to be “hyper aware of everything going in,” in April’s words.

As stage manager, April is the central link in what she considers to be the best team sport: theatre. She feels that the act of putting together a show is incredibly interdisciplinary, so she still considers herself a technician first and stage manager second so that she can always relate back to the efforts of the other parties involved. In this “sport” if “you’re missing one person, you can’t function,” so April uses her authority—not power—to ensure that schedules facilitate the continued work of the who group so that everything comes together brilliantly by the time the curtain rises on opening night.

So when you see Mary Poppins at the end of our 2016 season, take a look at the tech bunker behind the reserved chairs to see if you can find April calling the show and keeping it “Practically Perfect!”


 



WHO PROCESSES EVERY PURCHASE AT TTIP?

When any designer on a show, concessions staff member, front of house staff member, or administrative staff member makes a purchase for Theatre in the Park, all of those transactions pass through Katie Baergen, TTIP’s Administrative Assistant. She processes all purchase card receipts, invoices, and merchandise orders for The Park, but her job description includes so much more.

To get to this point, Katie started out on the “park” side of “Theatre in the Park.” After graduating from K-State, she interned with Johnson County Parks and Recreation. From there, she became a seasonal hire to TTIP in charge of pavilion rental and pre-show performance organization before going back to Parks and Recreation in a full time role with special events, wellness, and facility rental coordination. Later, she returned to TTIP as the administrative assistant so that she could create a better work-life balance for herself.

Now, Katie does a little bit of everything. To give a big picture of her role, she is responsible for clerical and administrative duties, hiring, supply orders, website updates, purchases, fabrication of 500-1000 backstage badges per season, payroll, bank deposits, and much more. She does everything from answering all questions sent to TTIP via phone and email to “dropping everything to get six liters of tempura paint so the boys of Tom Sawyer can paint the fence.” Without her, the wood to build the sets couldn’t be purchased, the bubble lasers wouldn’t be available at the merchandise stand, and the staff wouldn’t get paid.

At the beginning of the 2015 season, Katie did all of these tasks nine-months pregnant! In fact, last year Katie made it her mission not to go in to labor until all the work regarding the new hires was done. On the day of new hire training, the last piece of the new hire process, Katie came in for the first four hours of the day (the indoor portion of the training), left to get a pedicure when the training session moved outdoors, and went in to labor as she was heading home! She returned to TTIP during Shrek, and we are thrilled to have her back!!!

Now, Katie is able to share TTIP with her son, Gavin. When she comes to The Park as a patron, Katie claims, “It honestly blows my mind, especially not having been a theatre person. It’s magical.” And one-year-old Gavin? He made his first trip to TTIP to see The Wiz when he was twelve days old and “absolutely loves the lights and the music and all the people.” Katie loves being able to “see him light up at the theatre.”

So next time you call the Theatre in the Park office with a question, say hello to Katie Baergen as she works to help your experience at TTIP include “fun, affordable, high quality entertainment with top notch customer service!”


 



WHO MAKES IT ALL COME TOGETHER AT TTIP???

Putting together a season at The Theatre in the Park is massive undertaking. There are teams for each of our five shows at various points in their rehearsal processes spread throughout the area, the scenic team working to build our sets at Shawnee Mission Park, and the administrative team working from Antioch Park. Who serves as the liaison between all of these teams to ensure that every production comes together? Our Production Manager: Sarah Saugier!

Sarah began her journey to TTIP when she started stage managing shows in school and at community theatres in the area. While working on one of those community productions, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in 2009, Sarah was first brought into the world of TTIP. She stage managed another show at The Park in 2011 (Seussical) before joining the TTIP team as Production Manager for the 2012 season, and she’s been here ever since!

Sarah defines her current role as a “Stage Manager of Stage Managers” where she is required to use “Global Thinking” to ensure that TTIP and all of its productions become “the most professional community theatre possible”. She is responsible for working between all of the various groups involved in bringing the productions to life to ensure that all productions are on schedule, all facilities are well-maintained, everyone involved is always safe, and that everyone enjoys their time at TTIP.

One thing she thinks people might not realize her job involves is constant communication with our local weather services. She is always on call with these services in order to make sure that it is safe for our performers, crew members, front of house staff, and audience members to be out at TTIP. Weather-related issues were something that surprised Sarah, herself, when she first took the job. She described, “Outdoor theatre has many different considerations that indoor theatre doesn't have to deal with. Heat, wind, humidity, rain, etc. Our lighting and sound designers as well as our set designers and scenic crew take these elements into account to ensure that the director’s vision is realized. The actors have to deal with the heat and elements while convincing the audience they are half a world away or dancing their cares away in the 1920's.”

Seeing those visions come to life is what Sarah enjoys most about her job. She loves watching the first full run-though of each show after they make the move to TTIP and have all of their design elements in place. She hopes that all of our audiences are able to experience this as well and that they are able to “escape to the world that the show transports them to” at every performance.
Next time you’re at The Theatre in the Park, keep an eye out for Production Manager Sarah Saugier as she works to ensure that everyone—onstage and in the audience—has a fabulous experience!!!


 


   
 

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