Greetings! My name is Mike Hamer, and I am participating in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Artisan Exchange Program. I am from Denver, Colorado and have lived there my entire life. I studied Technical Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. While attending UNC, I began working as an over-hire carpenter at the Denver Center Theatre Company. I also started working for the Santa Fe Opera over the summers. Since I graduated in 2009, I have been working for both companies.
From September through mid-April, I work for the Denver Center Theatre Company as a carpenter, building scenery for their 11 show season, which is produced in three theatre spaces. The Denver Center does not operate in a repertory schedule.
From mid-April through August, I am the Stage Carpenter for the Santa Fe Opera. Basically, I am in charge of all of the stage operations that involve changing over one set to another and for scenery shifts that occur during the performances. The opera operates in a repertory schedule that seems similar to that of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but within one stage space.
I have always been interested in working for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and I am extremely excited to be participating in this program. I will be in Ashland for five weeks working in the scene shop building scenery. I am also hoping to get some exposure and experience with how they operate and construct their automated lifts, trap doors, tracking scenery, and turntables; as well as watching or participating in a scenery changeover from one show to another show. This week there are several shows in the tech rehearsal process. I have been working on notes for these shows in the morning before the rehearsals start. The first few days I was working on Comedy of Errors in the Thomas Theatre, and the later part of the week I was working on notes for The Tempest in the Bowmer Theatre. For The Tempest I worked on stretching a drop to get the wrinkles out of it, and creating a light bounce to help reflect the light on the back of a translucent drop. I also started constructing platforms for a show called Water by the Spoonful.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has just built a new production building that will be the new home of the scene shop, paint shop, prop shop, and costume rentals. I was able to tour this impressive facility a few days ago, and I must admit that I am jealous. They have a huge new scene shop area that will be great for putting together finished sets and working on larger scenery. The paint shop is massive as well, with tons of room to paint and layout scenery and drops.
I am particularly interested in metal working and automation. One very interesting thing about OSF is that they have an automation department. Both DCTC and SFO have a solid group of carpenters that are able to build scenery and also construct and implement automation systems. Here, at OSF, there is an automation department that works closely with the carpenters, but ultimately only deals with the automation systems. The company also writes the software that controls the motors, which is very unusual for theatres to do. I can’t wait to learn more about it.
Ashland seems to be a small, quaint town. There is the main downtown area that has a number of shops and restaurants, and at the center is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I am excited to be visiting this town and area. I am very excited to experience more of the theatre festival, as well as some sightseeing nearby.