Last season we began our “Actors’ ExPats” series – interviews with folks who once were involved with Actors’ but had since moved away. This year, as we move our 30th Season, we are going to take that idea and expand on it. We are going to be celebrating some of the many, many people who have made this theatre such a success!
So, we’ll be interviewing all kinds of folks, from those that helped start Actors’ in the very beginning to those who are helping out today; people who have moved from West Michigan and those who are active in Grand Rapids theatre now. Our goal is to get to know some of the amazing people who have graced our stage, from acting to directing to everything in between. This is an opportunity to take a look at the past and also look to the future – and why Actors’ Theatre has been a passion for so many.
Our most recent interview was with traveling “Props God” Austin Rodriguez. For several years, Austin helped create many of the amazing and unique stage props and sets you have seen at Actors’. Currently he is the Head of Props on the first national tour with Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein The Musical. Austin says it is a whirlwind – a fast paced musical comedy full of lots of props and even more laughs. We caught up with him just long enough to ask him about his start in theatre.
Tell us a little about your history with Actors’ Theatre, Austin.
I first started in Actors’ 22nd season in the costume shop helping Marcia Vankuiken with the of sewing costumes and also helping with the build and design of some props for Pacific Overtures. From then on I was the shop assistant and helping to build the sets for every show through the 24th season. I also was the props designer for The Last Five Years, Boy Gets Girl, Lobby Hero, A Man of No Importance, Kimberly Akimbo, Urinetown: The Musical, and Fat Pig.
I have so many favorite memories at Actors’ Theatre. I remember all the fun hours (and sometimes late hours) I spent building and creating sets and props with some of the most amazing and talented people I have worked with in my life. I remember doing The Time Warp with the crew of Rocky Horror every night after being stuck under the set most of the show. I remember the fire alarm going off during hell Sunday for BatBoy and half of the cast that was dressed in drag sitting on the street waiting for fire department to give the ok or John Despres teaching me how to paint the wood grain the stage floor at 2 AM during the build of A Man of No Importance. One of my most fond memories of is of the community theatre outreach toward Actors’ Theatre during Corpus Christi. It was one of the most impressive displays of community I have ever seen. It proved to me that when you are involved with Actors’ and with Grand Rapids theatre you become apart of a Family.
I have learned so much from working for Actors’ Theatre. Actors’ was one of the theatres in Grand Rapids that was responsible for molding me into the technician that I am today. There I learned some of the techniques and skills that I still use today in my career as a props person. Since Actors’ is committed to producing the new and interesting plays, I have been able to create some interesting things: from Art Deco furniture for Lobby Hero to making a woman’s water break live onstage in Kimberly Akimbo!
I look back on my times at Actors’ with great affection. They were times of great art, amazing laughs, and the family.