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by SCR Staff

Behind-the-Scenes: A Fascination for Detail Work

The more detailed, the better for John Gaddis IV. In his role as assistant technical director, he assists Technical Director Jon Lagerquist and Master Carpenter Amanda Horak by tracking and managing the flow of materials that apply to the physical makeup of the set. Gaddis also helps find solutions to problems ranging from how to make it “rain” to repairing broken tools. Another responsibility is “over hire”—the extra people often needed to supplement the staff with assembling or taking down a set or when a show needs assistance to be built within the given time frame. A major part of Gaddis’ job involves making sure the scenery is set up at SCR’s support facility in a manner helpful to the scenic artists so that it will look great for each show and then expediting the flow of scenery to and from the facility efficiently.

All of this requires an aptitude for detail, and his comes naturally—his father is a gifted wood craftsman and his grandfather was a sign painter in the years before pre-printed or pre-programmed art adorned things such as billboards, buildings or trucks.

For 28 years at SCR—and through more than 300 productions—Gaddis has put his natural talent and skills to work.

“I’m always learning and getting to work with a variety of materials such as wood, foam, steel, paint, plastic, plumbing, electrical and water for such things as rain,” he says. “I also fill in the gaps wherever needed to keep things moving. The attention that we pay to all of these details means that the quality of what we do is very good.”

His interest in the technical side of theatre started early—in high school—with productions such as My Fair Lady and Flowers for Algernon. He always has been drawn to the look of the sets. His first professional production, Dracula at the Ahmanson Theatre, caught his attention because of its specific style: done in black and white, except for a red rose and a few other small red elements.

In his youth, Gaddis saw shows at SCR including Volpone  by Ben Johnson (1978, with Hal Landon Jr., who made a great impression on him), A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet (1980) and The Merchant of Venice (1981). His interest and work in theatre continued through junior college and then at the University of Oklahoma where he earned his BA in technical theatre.

“Theatre has a certain quality that reflects the human condition and it’s done in a way that is easy for people to relate to,” he says. “Not many other things can do it that well.”

After joining the SCR staff, Gaddis’ first production was Glengarry Glen Ross  by David Mamet (1987). He counts a number of productions as memorable, including:

  • A Christmas Carol (1987-now): “I’m most proud of this production; I think it’s one of the best shows we do.”
  • Pirates by Mark W. Lee (1991): “It’s my favorite—the set looked like the back of a ship.”
  • The Ballad of Yachiyo by Philip Kan Gotanda (1996): “The style, which used puppetry, was unique and beautiful to watch.”
  • Theatre for Young Audiences series: “These shows are a good way for kids and their families to have an exposure to theatre. I hope they continue coming to see plays as they grow up, and become our next generation of audiences.”

Through the years, the variety of work and creativity have kept things interesting for Gaddis, along with the “numerous friendships and the opportunity to work with great designers.”

About the author

South Coast Repertory

South Coast Repertory is a Tony Award-winning theatre is known for producing classics, contemporary hits and world premieres, for having the largest new-play development program in the nation and for advancing the art of theatre in service to the community. 

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