Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Spotlight on Jimmy Gertzog

By • Apr 1st, 2009 • Category: Interviews
Rehearsal for Murder
Providence Players
James Lee Community Center, Falls Church, VA
$15/$12 Seniors and Students
Playing through April 4th

Listen to the interview with Jimmy Gertzog. [MP3 8:18 7.6MB]

Mike: This is Mike Clark with Show Biz Radio and I am talking with Jimmy Gertzog who is the technical director for Providence Player’s Rehearsal For Murder. Thank you for talking with me today, Jimmy.

Jimmy: Thanks for having me on, Mike.

Mike: So what does a technical director do?

Jimmy: I guess it varies. I guess the textbook definition is that they sort of establish who they have designing lights, designing sound for a show. They work with the director to figure out what is needed for a typical show. Usually they take a more hands off approach. With our community theater, Providence Players, who tend to have a much smaller technical crew who comes out and does each show. I tend to like taking an active role, I guess. I have been going to all the rehearsals, I am learning the show, I end up running the booth as well. I recruited Sarah Mournigham just to bring her on just because I had worked with her before. I tackle all of that basically and it is a much more active role than what I am thinking is what you would find in professional theater.

Mike: Where have you gotten your training in doing these types of things? The lights and all that stuff.

Jimmy: I actually have not had any real official training. I was brought up in the theater. I started out as an usher when I was ten years old eleven years old something like that for our first show when we were still the Mantua Players. And through loyalty through family and friends to this one company I really have not shopped my abilities round much.

I played sports, but then switched over from sports to theater in high school so I have a little bit of technical training at Woodson High School. For the most part I learned as I went. We had some people who were involved in the company, who are involved in the company and they taught me what I need to know and the rest has been figuring out on the job.

Mike: Your dad is the show’s director, so how is it like working with your dad?

Jimmy: It is probably interesting for the cast and people who have not worked with us before because we tend to reach consensus through argument I guess. We tend to be of the same mind set. We are pretty similar. We discussed ahead of time what we envisioned for the show. It is easy to have those conversations while you have to be a little bit more diplomatic, I guess, when you are talking to some other director. I have worked with other directors as well. It is easier to work with my Dad because we are of a similar mind set so I understand where he is coming from with him having to say less on the matter.

Mike: I was going to say what if you were working with someone else or a director that has a different vision for what the show should be, how would that effect what you would need to do?

Jimmy: I always try to be flexible.

Mike: Sure.

Jimmy: In the end it is the artistic director’s job for what they want to see on stage in terms of acting, in terms of the set, in terms of the lighting and the sound and all of the technical director’s pervue. I think my main goal is flexibility. I want to be involved n come up with my own vision, but if my vision is not what the director wants, that’s what is more important.

Mike: Right.

Jimmy: That they get what they ant. I usually try and give a vision and present it in writing or on diagrams. We work from there and it is a collaborative process.

Mike: Have you ever done any acting?

Jimmy: I acted once. I believe I was sixteen. The Providence Players did, this is when thy were still the Frost Players, we did Thornton Wilder’s Skin of Our Teeth and I played Henry Antrubus who is the son to the lead father and mother team. It was an interesting role.

Mike: Is that something you would want to do again or are you happy with the tech stuff?

Jimmy: I am really comfortable with the tech stuff, but I would definitely act again if the role came along again. I have not decided. I would have to change how I would do things with the Players actually if I decided to act again because I’d have to build myself a older because in most of the plays I end up getting picked for older roles because we do not have a lot of young twenty somethings associated with the company. The number is much smaller than they include in the middle aged crowd, I guess.

Mike: Is there a certain part you would want to do or a certain show you would want to do tech for?

Jimmy: I think the more modern the play choices get, the more opportunities for flexibility are available. A lot of the player’s bread and butter has been farces and farces from the 1940’s. Those tend to be in general lights up, lights down for the show with some variation, some tweaking. I really like Rehearsal For Murder because it is the first time we have really gotten to experiment, in my memory, with very focused lighting and where shadows are preferable to general lighting. I have gotten to play with color a lot more.

I am actually technical director officially for All My Sons. That should be interesting because the tech aspect of it should be realism. That works well with Beth Whitehead, the director’s vision. So it will be my goal to make it as realistic lighting as possible. There is not a lot of sound involved. I’m basically a lighting designer is wht the technical director will be doing. How to make the sun be shining. how to make the day progress because it occurs in one day.

Mike: Is there anything you would have done differently for Rehearsal For Murder now that we are well over half way through the run.

Jimmy: I think it ended up coming together pretty much how I envisioned it. I would always tweak some little things. I am always sitting there. I feel like I am a nit picky sort of technical guy in the theater. I tend not to be that way outside the theater, but in the theater the vision in my head I am constantly trying to revise it and constantly trying to make it more accurate of what I see on stage.

Throughout the run I have said, “Oh, we could change this. The color is a little too warm here. There is a little bit too much yellow. I would rather cut out that light or fix that shadow.” But those are usually minor issues that there is just no time to fix those, but I am pretty pleased with what we came up with.

Mike: Yes, at first I was like, “what? Black and white. This is kind of blah, just a black curtain.’ But yes, it really is interesting how it looks.

Jimmy: I definitely like and this was my Dad’s vision to begin with, I like this sort of film noir look. We actually drifted away from that in the end a little bit. I wanted more of the sepia tones especially in the beginning part of the play with the lead characters in his memory. I thought the sepia was a little bit more like a memory. I was beckoned to do more film noir. I actually got some good advice from Dave Sher, who is the theater manager who is our liaison, I guess to James Lee among many other people who we work together with. Dave Sher had some good advice. He liked how the very stark white on black contrast worked. Especially in the little vignettes that occurred throughout the play. Don’t want to give anything away on the air.

Mike: Anything else that we should chat about that we did not touch base about?

Jimmy: No. I have good help. That is one point that I do not know if I have made clear. That being a technical director is just being a manager of some sort in the theater. The technical manager you can take a more active or passive role in it. In respect it is al about saying, “Ok, this is what I envision,” and then delegating responsibility to everyone else to make it happen. I really have a good team to thank, especially Sarah. She has been a huge help. No, I think that has been about all. I just want to get that known.

Mike: Well, thank you very much for talking with me. I appreciate it.

Jimmy: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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