- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Theater technical director Adam Gillette is building the bedroom of an early 1990s Knoxville, Tennessee, home for a play that’s being performed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The play’s director has asked him to create the bedroom where five bridesmaids take refuge from a wedding reception in the university’s production of “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”

Gillette’s job is to construct what looks like a wealthy southern home using only a school theater budget. He’s building thin walls 14 feet tall and dangling a chandelier from above to create the perception of a high-ceilinged room. Thanks to a hardware store donation, he’s got laminate wood material for the flooring.

In the back of his mind, Gillette is also thinking about the other productions he’s working on this month: the best way to illuminate a carnivorous plant for the Lathrop High School production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and the puppet of the mythical sea witch Qalupilak in the Seward’s Follies production of “Alone in the Dark.”

Last week, he was also in the middle of doing technical support to round-the-clock Bard-a-Thon reading of William Shakespeare’s complete works.

Gillette, 34, is one of only a handful of theater professionals in Fairbanks. Since 2009, he’s been the scene shop manager at the university, a three-quarter time job that involves building sets for the theater department’s productions and helping outside groups such as the North Star Ballet use the theatre.

Outside his work at the university, Gillette has done work for nearly all of Fairbanks’ theater groups, including the Fairbanks Drama Association, Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre and Fairbanks’ Halloween screening of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Building sets in Fairbanks poses challenges unique to remote communities. A storage room behind the Salisbury theater shop holds dozens of chairs, tables, paintings and other set-decorating accessories.

In a larger city, a scene designer would go to different thrift stores to shop around for furniture. In Fairbanks, Gillette and other set builders watch transfer sites and Value Village offerings around the year to scavenge articles that might be useful for future theater productions. Fairbanks theater groups are all good about sharing resources, he said.

Gillette credits the theater program at Palmer’s Colony High School with steering his life toward theater. Gillette wrestled and played football in high school but found time to begin acting in school plays during his junior year.

After high school, Gillette moved to Rhode Island and enrolled in a culinary associate’s degree program. But he kept acting.

“I missed the theater so much that I started taking theater classes on the side. I was doing a full load of culinary classes and then I was taking community theater classes,” he said. “I realized what I really loved to do was theater and I was missing out.”

Gillette moved to Fairbanks in 2007 to attend the university, where he started working in the scene shop and taking classes.

Gillette has acted in a handful of plays in Fairbanks, including as a lead in a Fairbanks Drama Association production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” But his main role in most productions has been in the light booth or backstage.

“I’ve always been fairly technically minded. My dad was ‘Mister Fixit.’ If something was wrong with the house or the car he fixed it. I got introduced to that at an early age,” he said. “I found out I was very useful to productions as a behind-the-scenes worker.”

Looking ahead, Gillette wants to squeeze in more acting around his lighting and set production work. This fall he has an eye on a role in The Green Room production Nazi concentration camp play “Bent.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com


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