Rex Carleton, TPS technical director and Seattle Theatre Wikipedia himself answers monthly questions in this regular feature of our Newsletter.
Program Assistant Keiko Green sits down with the man himself.
(This is a continuation from last month’s conversation)
What exactly do you do at TPS?
REX: If I could answer that question…
REX: No joke. Because —
KEIKO: You’re all over the place. You do so much.
REX: I’m not getting any younger and at some point, I’m going to have to walk away from here. And at some point, some other poor schlub is going to have to pick it up. And I’ve never really been good at documenting my life. I work so much from the gut. It’s not that I don’t write. I do. And have reams of documents that I’ve generated from the time I’ve been here, but none of it is particularly well organized or codified to the point where you could call it a manual to how to do my job.
That’s a problem. That proverbial bus. It’s going to be tough for someone. And in a nutshell, what do I do?
I’m responsible for maintaining the facility. Obviously that’s done in conjunction and coordination with Seattle Center. There’s a lot of just coordinating between TPS and Seattle Center. But I also do a LOT of smaller stuff on a daily basis. And that includes all of the — if you define “facility” as everything that’s actually attached to the building — lights or plumbing or whatever… It’s not like I’m very sensitive and careful not to step on the toes of Seattle Center. But they also understand and appreciate that I can cover an awful lot of stuff that really doesn’t require major mobilization on the part of Seattle Center.
So I do all of that, and then of course there’s all the equipment, which really defines the space in a lot of ways. When I’m talking about equipment, I’m not just talking about the things you can pick up and carry, but all the installed infrastructure of the theater itself and the systems of the theater.
And of course, unfortunately, nobody knows that stuff like I do because I put it all there in the first place, right? So it’s a complex web of stuff, and a lot of it — honestly, as we all know — is aging. And requires constant maintenance and upkeep and replacement. I do all of that. And production support.
The two resident companies, Shakespeare and Book-It, have both been in this space now for a number of years. They know what they’re doing. I don’t have to sit and stand over them with my arms folded saying “tsk, tsk.” But I do monitor what they’re doing, and I make myself available should anything come up, if they have questions, or if they have a new person who needs an orientation to a system or whatever. I do a fair amount of that, and in the two smaller spaces (the Black Box and particularly Theatre4), I do a lot of training for new people coming in.
When I first got here, I made a conscious choice — and it was an organizational choice too — that I sold, essentially, to TPS. That is: I wanted to create, especially in the two smaller spaces, I wanted to create an environment where they didn’t have to pay a staff person to be there whenever they’re actively in the space.
In fact, I wanted to avoid that at all cost. I wanted to create an environment where people were empowered to do things themselves. So I do a lot of that. I do a lot of teaching and training, then I walk away and let people do what they do without being monitored directly.
But they need it, I’m there. If they ask. And for the most part, it’s been extremely successful. I don’t know the statistics, but I would venture to guess this is one of the very, very few performance venue rental systems that doesn’t require a paid staff member to be present.
And I’m very, very proud of that. And I’m proud of all the people who walked out knowing more than they did when they walk in. Granted, all they know is how to use 25 year-old equipment — and I don’t know what that gets them — but every bit of knowledge is important. And even more importantly, I think it builds the human spirit. To be given the power to make your own choices. Right? So that’s the philosophy behind that.
(This conversation is quite lengthy, so we will be continuing in a series of several installments.)
HAVE A QUESTION FOR REX?
E-mail Keiko at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading “ASK REX” to have your question featured in an upcoming newsletter!