Behind the Scenes
Perhaps as amazing as the grand opening performance in the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center by music, theater and dance students last spring, was the monumental effort behind the scenes by the small Myrtle Woldson staff to make sure the building was ready to roll for the April 11 dedication and the April 25-May 5 events.
MWPAC Director Laura Sims and her staff didn’t move into the building until April 4 as contractors and other University entities worked feverishly to complete the project.
“When we finally took over the facility, we had just one week until the official dedication of the building and three weeks until the opening show,” Sims says.
And to think, three months prior to that, the building was just a shell.
Folks from Plant Services, Digital Humanities, Sodexo, University Advancement, and Campus Security & Public Safety all did their parts to make sure the building was ready for its April engagements.
Sims hired marketing manager Peter Rossing, production manager Jon Carlson and program assistant Michelle O’Connell in January, and ticketing service supervisor Noah Max in March. That group undertook quite a chore to put all the pieces together before the MWPAC opened.
Carlson got a slight head start on assembling the stage and its mechanicals and props as musicians and choir members performed on stage for acoustic testing in March, at the end of the construction day. “We did all the acoustical testing during their practice sessions, and worked hard to make sure the orchestra shell was placed in just the right position,” Carlson says. “During this time we also got training in working the freight lift, using the telescopic seating, and testing the sound and lighting equipment.”
Meanwhile, Max couldn’t print tickets for the many late April and early May performances until prices were set. And Rossing couldn’t fully market these events until an on-sale date was set and a box office had been set up, at first in a makeshift office in Robinson House before the MWPAC opened April 4. To Max’s credit, tickets were printed a week after he arrived March 8 and were on sale a week after that.
For anyone who attended those spring events in the MWPAC, the productions were staged seamlessly, or so it appeared.
“Our biggest challenge happened unexpectedly during the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra concert on April 29 when the elevator stopped working,” Carlson reflects. “The symphony normally performs at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in downtown, and they often close off the balcony. We thought we’d do the same, but the orchestra level filled up so fast that we had to open the balcony.” Thank goodness, the elevator was fixed before the conclusion of the show.
Speaking of the “other” Woldson theater, some folks attending those springtime shows on campus first went to the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox before realizing the show was here, Rossing says.
During a special performance of the opening show, “A New Season,” on April 26, 10 a.m. for 675 school children from the area, the house lights failed to dim during the show . . . which probably worked out OK for the teachers keeping an eye on their school kids.
The marketing manager also found himself trying to arrange for show ushers for 10 performances without much lead time, and finding it difficult to recruit volunteers to hand out programs and seat guests so late in the game. University Advancement event organizers helped provide ushers from a service they use, and saved the day.
"Surprisingly, I thought the great attraction to our new theater would be the Mainstage itself,” Rossing says, “but when I talked to people on campus, the big buzz was over the replicated rooms from Miss Woldson’s home.”
“She got out and about in the community. It was her desire to give back,” Sims says. “This facility allows the community a chance to see great productions at an affordable price. Miss Woldson would have liked that.”
Some have asked, “Why not wait until fall to stage the dedication and grand opening events,” but it was clear in Sims’ and her crew’s minds that they owed it to the GU 2019 graduating seniors to give them a chance to perform in this beautiful space.
Mission accomplished, thanks to some extraordinary backstage theatrics.
Fall Season Lineup at the Myrtle Woldson PAC
- Taylor 2 Dance Company, Sept. 13. The six-member touring company Paul pays tribute to Taylor (1930-2018).
- Guest Artists Residency Showcase – Forthun + Rome, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m.
- Singer Carlene Carter, Sept. 26. Heiress to the Carter-Cash family, Carter’s music reflects many facets, from flowery lyrics to songs of faith.
- Jazz Sampler Concert, Oct. 4, 8 p.m.
- Concert Choir, Discantus Treble Choir, and Glee Club, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.
- Post Comedy Theatre, Oct. 10. With the change of a hat or wig, comedian Robert Post switches between six hilarious characters in a murder-mystery spoof.
- Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till, Oct. 17. Actor and playwright Mike Wiley performs a one-actor, multiple-character drama chronicling a murder and trial.
- Romeo and Juliet, Nov. 1-3, 8-10
- California Guitar Trio + Montreal Guitar Trio, Nov. 14. Two notable guitar trios combine compositions of rock, world, jazz and classical music.
- Dance Presents! – Forthun + Rome and Khambatta Dance, Nov. 22-23
- Turtle Island Quartet: Winter’s Eve, Dec. 14. a holiday musical celebration from ancient Celtic songs Brazilian chorinho and a Miles Davis holiday classic.
- The Night Before Christmas Carol, Dec. 19. David zum Brunnen portrays Charles Dickens and 17 favorite characters from Dickens’ classic.
- Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra Concert, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m.
- Gonzaga Wind Ensemble Concert with Ferris HS, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.
- Gonzaga University Honor Band Festival Concert, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
- Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra Concert, Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m.
- Gonzaga Jazz Ensembles Christmas Concert, Dec. 3