Published Oct 17th, 2013

By Sydnee Bryant

Behind the Scenes with … Clayton Rodney

We find out what it’s like to be the technical director at Edmonton Opera

Photo supplied.
Photo supplied.

How did you get into this field?

I attended MacEwan’s theatre production program with intentions of using it as a stepping stone to get into TV broadcasting at NAIT, but the instructors at MacEwan did such a good job, I stayed and fell in love with live performance. 

What are some of your responsibilities?

Basically, I take care of everything you see behind the orchestra, except the singers. I figure out how the scenery is built, assembled and finished — of course, with the help of my department heads. I look after the lighting, video, props, audio, carpentry transportation of the scenery and all the people who work in those departments, plus the people in wardrobe and makeup. I also look after the brand-new-shiny-look-out-the-paint-is-still-wet production facility — we started using the building in May, 2012. 

I also look after our scenery rentals to other opera companies in Canada and the United States — that’s a part of this job I love, as it lets me travel to interesting places, like the U.K., and see a lot. Another important role I play at EO that contributes to our success: I change the toilet paper at the production facility.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

A really big challenge is just staying on top of everything and keeping the design vision even when the budgets are slim. The biggest problem for us is the unpredictable costs in Alberta for materials. For example, the current production we are planning to build, Salome (opening October 26), requires 15,000 feet of chain to hang from the fly system (the chains that hang from the ceiling and are used for scenery changes and lighting). Did you know that chain is really heavy? Heavy enough that we would be adding a skylight to the Jubilee if we tried to hang it! So, we had to go with a lighter but more expensive aluminum chain. Luckily for me I get to play a bit of hooky and I run away to teach MacEwan Theatre Production students about drafting for the theatre … it’s fun! I basically get to spend the class talking about opera and present them with real problems I face and solve in my day job. 

What innovations do you hope to see in your field in the future?

A better integration of video into productions. I’m a big scenery, big lighting, big action kind of person and I love when you have got an amazing set onstage and the magic that comes from that. What I really dislike is when I see shows that add video, just to have video — come on! My dream is that one day, video won’t be a marketing tool to sell tickets but will instead only be there to enhance a show artistically.

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