Meet the Staff

Jane Eyre

Meet the Staff:  Mike Beschta, Assistant Technical Director

By Alex Woody, Marketing Apprentice

Tell us a little about your career and how you got started at Hartford Stage.

In my undergrad and graduate school programs, I did pop-up shows in Milwaukee coffee houses and the occasional former fish processing facility; I worked for a children’s circus in Vermont one summer. All mostly doing sound and lighting design. My first really legitimate theatre gig was a summer stock job working as a shopper/buyer at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Through the festival, I met a bunch of people who worked in Connecticut theatre, did an internship in technical direction at Long Wharf in New Haven, did over-hire work as a carpenter at Hartford Stage, and applied/was hired to be a staff carpenter in 2006. Within a couple of years, I was promoted to Assistant Technical Director; and I’ve been here ever since.

What is your day-to-day work like?

In abstract terms, I spend most of my time problem-solving. The scenic designer will propose an environment for the show, and it’s my job to work with the Technical Director and figure out how to make the designer’s vision happen within the physical and financial constraints of reality and our budget, respectively. In concrete terms, I spend most of my time budgeting, tracking expenses, drafting scenic elements, designing automation and programming our CNC (computer numerical control) router.

Can you talk about the set build for Jane Eyre? What is something unique or interesting about it that will excite audiences?

Well, it’s the first time we’ve built a donut turntable in a very long time. A donut turntable is a turntable where the center is stationary while the outer part rotates. We haven’t made one in the last 13 years. We are also working on some beautiful imitation birch trees, which are made of cardboard but you would never know by looking at them.

How do you balance your regular workload while transforming the scene shop in preparation for the annual Hartford Stage Gala in April?

It can be difficult but generally, it pays to be opportunistic with any downtime that might pop-up during the season, and I try as hard as I can keep an eye out for anything that can be repurposed for the event. I also think that because it’s in our space, my crew and I always have the Gala in the back of our minds so we make sure to organize our space in ways that are modular. Everything is on wheels and ready to move! My favorite Gala theme is always the next one. The fun part is in the development of the concept and the process of executing it.

What is something about your job that may be surprising to learn?

I find that most people are surprised to learn about the divide between design and execution in the arts; i.e. most technical directors are not designers and most designers don’t build. More importantly, I think people are surprised to learn the divide is by design. A designer has to think in very idealistic terms; they can’t design something that’s never been seen before if they need to know how to build it before they start. It’s similar to the relationship between science fiction and hard science/engineering or leadership and policymaking. Designers imagine going to the moon, and technical directors start building a rocket.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I really love it when we come up with an elegant solution to a design challenge, or when a designer comes up with a lofty request in the middle of tech and I’m able to throw together a workable solution in a minimal amount of time.

How did it feel to be a recipient of the Hartford Stage Barry Award; and what self-expectations, if any, did it place on you?

It’s always great to be recognized for your work so, in that respect, it was great. To be honest, I couldn’t have done any of the extracurricular activities that I did to be recognized for that award unless I had a strong, self-sufficient team of carpenters and painters and an immediate supervisor who trusted me to take on the extra work. So, I guess what I would say is that award made me thankful for having a good team around me and made me think about the ways I can better support them in their careers.

What is your personal motto in life?

The same as the state of Wisconsin: Forward.

Mike Beschta
Mike Beschta