People Behind Summer and Smoke: Bob and Phil

One thing I’ve learned is that mounting a production like Summer and Smoke takes a large number of people making a huge time commitment. While ordinarily the process would be impressive, the fact that everyone involved in any of Walterdale Playhouse’s productions are volunteers, makes it especially impressive. Through the Behind Summer and Smoke series, I have been profiling the people who are involved in Summer and Smoke – on stage and off!

Actor: Bob Klakowich

1. Why (and when) did you decide to become involved with Walterdale?

I became involved in 1994. I wanted to be involved in theatre in the community, but did not want to become a professional.

2. What is your role in the production of Summer and Smoke?

I am a cast member and I play “Gonzales.”

3. What other productions (at the Walterdale or elsewhere) have you been a part of? What was your role in those productions?

Many, many, many!  (Too many to list.)  I have been an actor, director, stage manager, sound designer, theatre pianist, and more.

4. What does it mean for the audience when you’ve done well in your role?

It makes the show satisfactory—gives the audience a feeling that their entertainment dollar was well spent.  This will happen if each actor does a good job.  It should not draw attention to the actor her/himself.

5. You’re a volunteer with The Walterdale; what is your “day job”? What else are you involved in?

I have an academic position in music at MacEwan University, and I do Standardized Patient work (i.e. I play patients and simulate various conditions for the benefit of medical students and exam candidates).  I am also on the Stage Struck! (adult one-act play festival) committee as publicist, and active in my church.

Sound Designer: Phil Kreisel

1. Why (and when) did you decide to become involved with Walterdale?

I first became involved with Walterdale in 2004.  My wife had been involved with Walterdale as a stage manager in the previous 2 years when I was with another theatre company.  As it turned out, I auditioned for a role in Drinking Alone, and while I was not successful, the director offered me the chance to do the sound design for this show instead.  Earlier in the year, I was brought in at the last minute to be a sound operator for Walterdale’s one acts, as the previous sound operator was fired three days before that show went up.  I’ve been involved with Walterdale ever since, either as a sound designer, an actor or a director.  I also edit Footlights, Walterdale’s newsletter for members, and sit on Walterdale’s technical team.

As to why – there are lots of reasons, but the main one is that it’s fun.  I’ve met a number of people who have become close friends long after the show has concluded.

2. What is your role in the production of Summer and Smoke? In layman’s terms, what do you do?

I’m the sound designer for this show.  This involves the selection and arrangement of music that occurs in the show, as well as various sound effects associated with parts of the show.  There are many instances where sound and lights have to coordinate together, but that’s not a problem, as the lighting designer (Richard Hatfield) and I have worked together on other projects before.

3. Why do you choose to be involved in the production side of the show? How did you get started doing this?

I’ve now done sound design for over 60 different theatre productions.  Originally, I was with a small children’s theatre and they had no one to do sound, and since I was quite fascinated with sound, and the impact of sound on a production, I started to do it.  This is back in the days when we had to use cassette tapes for sound effects (and I don’t miss that aspect!). There are always challenges in doing sound for a show, and immense satisfaction when it’s done right.

4. Most audience members know when an actor has done a good job. What does it mean for the audience when you’ve done well in your portion of the production?

Using sound in a show often helps convey a time and place.  In Summer and Smoke, there is a long sequence that involves fireworks.  Well, we can’t actually set off real fireworks in the theatre, so we have to use light and sound to mimic the effects, both for the actors to react to (since they’re watching fireworks in a particular scene), and for the audience to become convinced that there really are fireworks occurring.   There are other scenes that involve weather effects, telephones, doorbells, clock bells, etc. in this show, along with background music.

The whole point of utilizing sound is to help draw the audience into the story.  Sometimes, sound effects become a focal point of a scene in a show.  For example, in Sweet Charity, a show I did for Walterdale in 2005, the lighting designer and I created an elevator with lights and sound.  The actors “entered” the elevator (a square patch of light) and mimed the pressing of buttons in conjunction with the sound effects (of an elevator door opening and closing) and miming the movement of the elevator (in conjunction with the sound of the elevator moving, and then abruptly stopping between floors).  For one of the shows, I added elevator music to the scene (the Fifth Dimension’s song Up, Up and Away) as a “harmless” surprise to the actors.  This gave the director and the audience a good laugh, and it was one of those “in-jokes” in our closing night performance that had some of our crew wondering why we never did this insertion right from the start.

Other times, the sounds may be subtle to the point where the audience hears these on a subconscious level to help set a scene, but are not there to draw focus.  For example, I’ll routinely add sounds of nature to shows where there are outdoor scenes taking place in a forest or in a park.  We hear sounds around us all the time, but often “tune them out.”

5. You’re a volunteer with The Walterdale, what is your “day job”? What else are you involved in?

In my day job, I’m the market research officer for the County of Strathcona, where I design public opinion questionnaires, do statistical analysis and write up the results on a wide variety of topic areas. I also work with a number of other theatre companies as a sound designer.

6.  In a small paragraph, describe the highlights of the last 5 years or so of your life.

I can’t realistically do this in a small paragraph.  However, I will mention three highlights: 1) Including myself, three out of four members of my immediate family were involved in Walterdale’s production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – me as the sound designer/live sound operator, my wife Mary Jane as Assistant Director of the show, and my youngest son Philip, who played Linus in the production.  2) Becoming a playwright (5 completed works so far); and 3) seeing my wife taking the “leap” to becoming a director after years as a (damn good) stage manager.

Summer and Smoke will run February 6 – 16 at Walterdale Playhouse. Read more of the Behind Summer and Smoke series.

– Jenna Marynowski

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