IN THE SPOTLIGHT
People Behind the Scenes
Who keeps our university in top shape? It's the People Behind the Scenes! Meet Department of Theatre & Dance Production Managers Steve McDonald, theatre, and Bob Shannon, dance. The two senior instructors manage people, budgets, facilities and never fail to "make the 8 p.m. curtain," according to Shannon." Once published, no matter what, the day and time cannot be pushed back. We all take pride in that fact – it may just be our most developed and valuable skill," he said.
What is one thing you would like people to know about the work you do?
"I want a horse with two actors inside that an actress can ride on stage: here's the sketch." (Peeru Gunto, 2004)
Steven McDonald: I helped realize the idea for the CU production of Peero Gunto in 2004. I found the money in the budget, organized the right team and made it happen – I enabled creative people to create.
"I want a bible that will explode when Dracula holds it up and gazes at it." (Dracula, 2003)
Dreams are often bigger than budgets and I work with an extremely creative design team and director, comprised of faculty and students, most of who have never worked together. They dream up ideas: design, lighting, costumes, scenery, sound and acting.
"I want to do a Japanese adaptation of a 19th century Norwegian classic. I'm going to rewrite it and put it on stage in five weeks." (Peeru Gunto, 1994)
Herein lies the beauty: my job changes every six weeks as the production changes. If it's a great project with a great team, then great memories are made. If not, it's over soon. Theatre and Dance faculty stay busy, producing 14 different events in the nine-month season.
Bob Shannon: We do the same thing, Steve and I. We both look at the big picture – the people and tasks and timelines and budgets – then we organize a highly creative, independent team into the same place and get them speaking the same language all at the same time. We're working with choreographers, directors, lighting, props, scenic and costume designers. We are people managers, financial managers and resource managers.
Something to be very aware of is that we are faculty, not classified staff or anything else. We are senior instructors. I manage 50% of the time, teach 50% of the time and do creative work 50% of the time. We walk into a classroom, present material then test on it in the morning. That's just the morning – traditional teaching. The afternoon is spent with the students in our "lab" building the shows – four hours a day, five days a week. No, make that evenings and weekends too! We're still teaching students alongside us as they apply what they learn in class. We're always working on three shows at a time – once the first one opens, we start on the fourth.
Where my job differs from Steve's is that my job is defined as a designer as well, not unusual in the dance world. I design lights for dance concerts, which is what brought me here. Project management is what I do to pay the bills, lighting I do for fun.
What do you like best about being a part of the CU community?
Steven McDonald: The best part of being part of the CU is my love of teaching. As soon as we're out of the classroom, the knowledge obtained is instantly applied and I get to see so many successes. We run a $.5 million dollar season staffed almost entirely by students, and we ultimately depend on them to get it done.
Bob Shannon: Okay, this will sound rote but it's the students. The most fun I have is sitting in the production meetings with them. Discussing how we will make the art is like looking at a palette of paints and choosing – and there are so many choices. I get to lead them down a path that will work.
What is your favorite activity/interest outside of work?
Steven McDonald: Outside of CU, my kids are my life.
Bob Shannon: I look at a map everyday and ask, 'where's the next ride?' I travel the country for a month every year on motorcycle – it's like a month long, low-key amusement ride and every road is a different ride. Not unlike my job.
Want to see the fruits of Shannon and McDonald's labor? Call 303-492-8181 for more information about the season of Dance and Theatre offerings or visit the website.
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People Behind the Scenes
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