Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog


BACKSTAGE WITH CARTER MILLER

BACKSTAGE WITH CARTER MILLER 

Next up our series of interviews with MRT staff members is Carter Miller, who is the sound and lighting intern for the 2008-2009 season.

Where are you from originally, and how did you get your start in theatre?

That is actually a slightly more complicated question then it sounds… I’ve bounced around quite a bit in my life, living in San Francisco, London, New Hampshire, Syracuse, Manhattan, and Los Angeles before coming to the Boston/Lowell area a few years ago. I first fell in love with theatre way back in elementary school, and continued to do shows through-out high school, although my interest was primarily as an actor, and my exposure to technical theatre was limited to helping out backstage between rehearsals. In the grand scheme of things it may not mean much, but I’m still inordinately proud of the acting award I picked up at my high school graduation. I strongly considered going to college for theatre, but wound up attending Syracuse University for an English degree instead, although I continued to act in student films as the opportunity arose. I moved to L.A. with a screenplay in my pocket, and tried to break into the writing business, which for me meant the wonderful world of coffee shop management, before moving to Massachusetts to continue my education (as luck would have it) across the street from MRT at Middlesex Community College, deciding to pick up a theatre major in the process. Karen Oster, the head of the performing arts department at MCC, has an excellent philosophy that everyone who is involved in a show with her must also be part of a backstage crew to fully embrace the educational aspect of the theatre program, so with my first show I signed up to be part of the lighting crew. Little did I know! It set me off on a new path and a new passion, and a year and a half later I found myself applying for an internship with MRT.

Piper Goodeve and Nick Mannix in "The Fantasticks." Photo by Meghan Moore
Piper Goodeve and Nick Mannix
in “The Fantasticks.”
Photo by Meghan Moore

How long have you been at MRT and what is your role?

I joined MRT for the 2008-2009 season as the lighting and sound intern. I assist Jason Weber, the lighting and sound supervisor, with hanging the light plot, circuiting and cabling the lighting instruments, hanging and testing speakers, etc. During technical rehearsals, I program and edit light cues into our light board at the direction of the designer, and during the run of the show, I am responsible for equipment maintenance and checks prior to each performance as well as running the lights and sound boards for every performance.

What is a typical show day like for you?

I show up to the theatre about an hour before the house opens and begin a series of preshow checks, turning on each individual lighting instrument to make sure it is properly focused, that the gels have not begun to burn through, and (most importantly) to make sure that the instrument still works! I also run sound checks to make sure each speaker and amp is working properly, and typically run a few cues from the show. I troubleshoot any problems, set up wireless headsets so that the Stage Manager can be in communication with the ASM (assistant stage manager) backstage and the House Manager in the lobby, and depending on the production check any other equipment for which I am responsible. In our current production this involves checking the fog machine and projector, as well as syncing the laptop used to run the projector. Once everything is tested and in working order, my job is over until 10 minutes before the house opens, when I put the lights and sound into preset. I run the light and sound boards during the performance, and after the audience leaves I make sure everything is shutdown and reset for the next day/show.

Kate Udall in "A Moon for the Misbegotten." Photo by Meghan Moore.
Kate Udall in
“A Moon for the Misbegotten.”
Photo by Meghan Moore.

What is your favorite show from your time at MRT? 

This is a tough question. I thoroughly enjoyed working on The Fantasticks, both because it had an amazing cast and because typically musicals tend to be a bit more precise and challenging when it comes to running lights and sound. It was also the first professional show I have worked on, and I learned a lot in a very short amount of time! Every show since has been great as a learning experience, and each lighting designer that has come through this season has taught me more of the craft, as has Jason and everyone at MRT as new situations and opportunities arose, so from this standpoint, each experience has built upon the last. That being said, I’d still have to say our current production of A Moon for the Misbegotten is my favorite show of the season. Not only is the production amazing to watch (and believe me this is an important factor when you are watching a show from the light booth 7-8 times a week!) the light design, done by Beverly Emmons, is simply incredible. As a student of lighting, and a relatively new one at that, I can honestly say that I have been educated and inspired by working on this show. I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to a successful and educational year with MRT.

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