StageHANDS exhibition spotlights backstage artists
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
When you go to the theater, do you ever consider how many unseen people made the show possible? And how many of them might have creative talents of their own?
Kristen Flores did.
A scenic painter at San Diego Repertory Theatre who has spent half her life backstage, she came up with the idea of giving the craftsmen she knew a chance to take center stage with their personal art work.
The first StageHANDS exhibit, in 2009, was a casual affair, including Kristen and her two sisters, a handful of friends and co-workers, and no publicity. This year’s show, which runs through July 9 in the Lyceum Theatre gallery space, is twice the size and attracted more than 100 art-and-theater-lovers to its opening reception June 25.
Produced by Andy Lowe, artistic director of Chinese Pirate Productions, the exhibit features not just carpenters, electricians, and stagehands, but stage managers, designers, and a couple of theater critics.
“Andy’s kind of like a big brother to me, he’s great at advertising, and he really helped me take this show to the next level,” Flores said.
Lowe, who is also the Theatre in Residence program coordinator at La Jolla Playhouse, said he has a huge respect for stagehands and technicians, having spent time — 18 years — as a theater electrician himself.
“The technical people don’t get the bows, but they’re the ones who make the theatrical magic work,” Lowe said. “And almost every one I’ve known has been involved in other artistic endeavors. This exhibit is their chance to get a little recognition.”
Theater critic Pat Launer has six paintings in the show, each inspired by a local production, a few of the many she sees and reviews every year. A longtime Del Mar resident, she has been taking art classes for almost a decade and had her first exhibition last June at Liberty Station.
“Andy told me about the StageHANDS exhibit, and I told Cuauhtemoc Kish, who’s also a theater writer and a fabric artist, too,” she said. “I think it’s great to showcase another side of creative theater people, and I’m excited to be part of it!”
Twenty-four behind-the-scenes artists contributed their work to StageHANDS, which includes oils and watercolors, photography, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, and a plexiglass installation.
Even the music at the opening reception was provided by stagehands — former stage manager Sarah Kirby and her Alter Ego Band, featured members of La Jolla Playhouse’s backstage crews.