Since my earliest days at Gibraltar I remember Kurt Thomas in the sound booth, building sets, and lending a hand to anyone that needed it on and off the stage. I recently caught up with Kurt, now the Door Community Auditorium’s Technical Director, to talk to him about what it is that’s kept him loving the theater all these years.
Brittany Jordt (BJ): How long have you been the Technical Director (TD) at Door Community Auditorium (DCA)?
Kurt Thomas (KT): Officially, I have only been the TD for a year and a half. I was assistant TD since 1998.
BJ: How would you describe your role as TD?
KT: It’s never the same thing. Every band is something different. It’s always new – always challenging and always new.
BJ: What are your responsibilities?
KT: To ensure that everybody is pleased. I make sure the performers are pleased with the quality of equipment and therefore the audience is pleased when they come – in particular that they enjoy the sound and lighting.
BJ: It sounds like you oversee all aspects of theater?
KT: It’s everything! We always have to begin by evaluating what a show needs, technically speaking, and what we have available. Some bands bring everything; others are flying in so they have only their guitar and nothing else. I also make sure that we keep the show in budget and it’s not too prohibitive cost-wise.
BJ: What are the different jobs associated with putting on a theatrical production versus a musical performance?
KT: Mostly we work with companies like American Folklore Theatre (AFT) who have been here enough times that they know what the space is like, and usually they’ll have stage requirements in the contract. With [The Spitfire Grill] they had a different set designer, so she asked me for details about proscenium and border heights.
BJ: What’s fun about working with nationally-known musicians?
KT: You pick up tricks. For example, last year the Indigo Girls brought this mesh that they hung up as a backdrop, and I borrowed that idea and used it for Door County Idol.
BJ: I imagine the first season working as the TD had to be a little bit nerve-wracking!
KT: It’s a little daunting when you start out. I had done things like help load in, set up, and run the follow spot. When you’re the one controlling all the lighting or sound, it’s a little intimidating. They come to me with the questions: where’s that hum coming from? Or where can I get a soda?
BJ: What do you find are the expectations of the acts that come in?
KT: They are usually very impressed with the theater and acoustics. Some acts will do something completely a cappella knowing that the people in the back can hear it. They are impressed by the look of it, and surprised at the age of it – they think it’s newer.
BJ: What are the perks of the job?
KT: You get to meet interesting people, and most of the performers have great stories. I sat here after the show talking to Arlo Guthrie for about a half-hour, and we talked to Richie Haven before his show.
BJ: What are the challenges of the position?
KT: Always trying to be the best. Even though it may be your 100th show, it’s the audience’s first one. You’ve got to try to give them something fresh.
BJ: Have there been any memorable problem-solving situations?
KT: It seems like most times, a lot of what you’re doing is trouble-shooting. Probably the biggest challenge was working with AFT when all the electricity went out in the windstorm last year. We had to stop because the emergency lights went on, and that’s just enough time to evacuate the theater. We didn’t get the power back until 10:00 pm the next day and the lighting designer came over and made the final adjustments.
BJ: What are you looking forward to this season?
KT: In some ways, I’m always just looking at the next show. I’d like to bring in the sound engineer we had and get an idea of the upgrades, so that we don’t have to rent as much as we do now.
BJ: What keeps you coming back, year after year?
KT: I’m always learning new things, and being the TD, I am able to take lot of creative liberties. Most of the time, I don’t have to sell my ideas to anybody – to the lighting person or the director. I get to implement what I see and want to try.