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)
K: Have you ever had an apprentice?
REX: I tried it a couple of times. There was one period about 5 years ago or so — you know, my wife and I operate a horse farm on the side. That’s what I do when I’m not here. So you know, I never stop working. Just because I’m not here, don’t think I’m not working.
But we had a large issue with drainage and water on our property that really had to be dealt with. So we got some support from the King County Conservation District to do some radical changes to the horse paddocks and stuff. So I took 3 months off and built fresh drain trenches, and while I was away, there was a young man who came here. And he shadowed me for a couple weeks, prior to me going off. Then kind of went on his own.
By his own admission, it was not always easy because — honestly, the two-week shadowing didn’t teach him much. But he got enough out of it, that he was able to carry on, and I was only a phone call away.
We keep trying to think of ways to share this institutional knowledge which I walk around with all the time, and we’re still working on that. It’s something that needs to be addressed, and we know that it needs to be addressed — because like I said, that bus is coming after me.
K: Why should people invest in the arts?
REX: Why not?
I mean, look — there are as many ways to feed the human spirit as there are humans. And no one of them is more important than the other. but I made a choice, 50 years ago now, to spend my life trying to build the human spirit this way. That was a conscious choice. I had options. And this is the one that when I was a 20 year old man, made sense to me. And I’ve never looked back. The unknown secret to my life, some people know this, one of the other options was — I was seriously considering going into the ministry.
I majored in the history of religion and philosophy in college. Partially because of my upbringing and a number of other things. But the ministry seemed to make a lot of sense. And that was kind of the path I was on, until I stumbled onto theatre for the first time when I was a junior in college. And it didn’t take long before I found myself sitting and making an argument to my parents that I could change the world from the pulpit or I could change the world from a stage. You know, when you’re 20 years old, you tend to make broad statements like that. But in a lot of ways, that was the choice I made. This became my pulpit.
So I’ve invested my life in it. And that’s as tangible and real as an investment as someone who donates $100,000 to cancer research.
Can you compare curing cancer to theatre? I don’t know. Maybe.
Which one has a deeper, more lasting effect on the collective human soul? Well, you can make the argument that the arts have done as much as any individual discipline or idea to uplift people and their perspectives on life. But this little tiny piece of the arts that we call TPS is trying very hard to do that on an ongoing basis. And I think that’s worth supporting.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR REX?
E-mail Keiko at email@example.com with the subject heading “ASK REX” to have your question featured in an upcoming newsletter!