It really is tiny little bug, you can barely see it, but once it clenches its teeth on you, just forget it because you’re a goner. Its venom (do bugs have venom?) rushes through your veins, takes over your body and pushes your soul towards one thing…
You can’t stop it. The muscle memory from years prior controls you. Like a zombie, a foreign force leads you towards the door. It’s a big black door usually down a non-descript alley way.
Before you know it, you’re walking through the stage door and working in the theatre again. There’s nothing you can do, you can’t stop the venom that now seeps through your veins. again.
Before The Bug Bite.
I spent 40 hours a week as a child and young adult in a dance studio. The hours that I wasn’t in the studio were spent in a smelly rehearsal room, in the darkness of the wings of a theatre waiting for my entrance, traveling from city to city for dance competitions, hanging out with people who could put their legs behind their ears or playing with the techies putting up a show that I wasn’t in, but had to be a part of. Dance and theatre were my life. It didn’t matter if I was working behind the scenes or on the stage, I just wanted to be involved.
After a few injuries and a realization (primarily prodding parents) that I needed a real job, I found photography and put dance and theatre behind me. But once you have that theatre bug, you can never really say goodbye. Every Broadway show, every ballet, every local theatre production I saw, I wished I was up on that stage. Before the show even started, I was studying the lighting plot to get a sneak peek at what I was about to see. That’s what happens when you spend the first 18+ years of your life in a theatre.
The Bug Bites Again.
A couple years ago, I became friends on Facebook with Martin Marchitto, a director I worked with in my teens, but hadn’t talked to in years. He directed some of my favorite community theatre projects from my past life. As I looked through his portfolio of set designs and the shows he’d directed over the last several years, I realized that I had to be a part of his work. I didn’t care how, but I wanted to be involved. After several days of perusing his portfolio, I sent him a message, “Marty, it’s great to reconnect. If you ever need a stage manager or lighting designer, I’d love to be involved with one of your projects.” He promptly responded, but didn’t have anything at the moment…
A couple weeks later, “Kevin, I think I have a project for you. We’re doing Company at Manhattan College (where he is a professor and Director of Manhattan College Players) and I think it would be a great production for you to get involved in. Can you come to the College on Saturday to chat?”
I did. And though I hadn’t designed lights for the stage in 10+ years, I was designing again. I made some rookie mistakes and had to learn some new technology (in the early 2000’s, LEDs weren’t even a thing and movers were so expensive that even Broadway shows couldn’t afford them)… Thankfully, with some pretty long tech hours to learn how to program a board again, the show went off without a hitch.
Martin has been a huge supporter of mine, talking about my work to all his colleagues in the theatre world and selling my talents. In less than two years, with his help, I’ve designed 7 shows and worked as Master Electrician on two others. I’ve designed simple plots in black box theatre with 40 instruments for A. R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room“, worked in the Paul Mellon Arts Center at the prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall designing a 120 instrument plot for their production of Don Nigro’s “Robin Hood” and most recently designed a 190 instrument plot (with 12 movers and 48 LEDs) for Trumbull Youth Association’s production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” (photos coming soon).
It has been such an amazing journey to be back working in the theatre, among people who love making theatre for the art of it, for the fun of it and for the opportunity to entertain people for a couple hours and take them away from their every day lives. I love creating “beautiful pictures” on the stage, but the best part of working in the theatre again is the opportunity to collaborate with some amazingly talented artists and technicians. In theatre, you make friends that last forever – even after a 10+ year break.
That bug that I keep talking about, that theatre bug, it bit me really hard and I just can’t stop. (And Marty, if you’re reading, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to rediscover my love of theatre.)
Kevin Michael Reed is a theatre maker from New York City living in Dublin and London. His production credits have included producer, director, playwright, dramaturg and designer. He is Artistic Director of Squire Lane Theatrical UK, a theatre production company specialising in developing new works for the stage. He holds a BFA in Photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), a MA in Playwriting from City, University of London, and a MFA in Theatre Directing from The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, Trinity College Dublin.