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Five Questions: Jerry-Mac Johnston

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Jerry-Mac Johnston, a Missouri State University theater graduate, returns to Springfield as Gillioz Theatre’s technical director after serving 10 years as lead stage technician for Benaroya Hall Music Center, home of the Seattle Symphony. He has more than 50 years of experience as an actor, writer, director and stage technician. Johnston is also working on a handmade baseball book, “A Sandlot Memory.” Each of the 50 copies is hand-typed, and Johnston is doing all of the illustrations and binding work.

Q: What is your background?

A: I lived for several years in Europe, where I worked in some English-language theaters. I worked on military bases managing community theaters. I’ve acted. I’ve designed lights and sets. I’ve managed theaters. I’ve been a stagehand, a technical director and a costumer. It’s a profession where, unless you immediately hit the high point of stardom, you better know how to do everything if you want to make a living. Otherwise, you’re going to be asking that age-old question, ‘Do you want fries with that?’

Q: One of your first jobs was with a theater in Rockaway Beach. How did that come about?

A: I opened my first theater in Rockaway Beach in, I think, 1963 – the year after they had the big riot down there on the Fourth of July. The town was trying to improve its image, get back to the family, so I opened a theater down there and ran that all summer. It was a success – we (performed the same show) six nights a week to full houses, and people would come back. There wasn’t much else to do in the area at the time. There was Silver Dollar City, Shepherd of the Hills, the Presleys and the Baldknobbers, and that was about it. So people would come back. That was pretty neat.

Q: What does your job as technical director entail?

A: I’m in charge of everything that happens on stage: the lights, the sound and the stage settings. It’s not that I always do them, but I oversee the whole stage area – the load-in and striking of the shows, and anything that has to do with the technical end of the theater.

Q: You also write quite a bit. How did that start?

A: The theater that I opened in Rockaway Beach didn’t have a play to perform, and we didn’t have the finances at the time to pay for a play to rent from one of the rental houses. We were going to be a tourist area, open six nights a week, so to rent a play for that time would have been horrendously expensive. So my business partner at the time said, “Why don’t you just write one?” And I said, “Yeah, right, like I know how to write a play.” But I did. Since then, writing has been this secondary thing that has hung out in the back. There were long times when I’ve been busy enough in the theater that I didn’t write anything. Lately, I’ve had some time and have written a lot more. I’m in the midst of wrapping up my sixth screenplay, and I think I might have found the formula.

Q: What’s coming up at the theater, and what are you personally working on?

A: The big thing coming up is the Ozark Mountain Daredevils the second week in May; everybody’s putting the big effort into that. We’ve had quite a few weddings, and the Skinny Improv performs down here a lot for various groups.

Right now, I’m still doing things like etching our microphones so we don’t lose them and getting the theater in a usable state. I hope in the future we don’t have as much time to do things like that. I hope we get busier and busier. Of course, I’m coming from a facility where we had 450 events a year. One a month just isn’t cutting it for me.[[In-content Ad]]


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