March 15, 2010

Running the shows

— Q: How old are you?

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer:Wed., August 20, 2008. Randolph Parker is the managing director of Deertrees Theatre located in Harrison, Me. for shoptalk.

A: What a question! Sixty-three, last Friday. By coincidence, and separated by a few years, it's the same day and month that the theater opened.

Q: What other jobs have you had?

A: I have done numerous and sundry jobs. Everything from being an accountant for an oil company in Dallas to being a gentleman farmer in Aspen to running a charter sailboat in the Mediterranean.

Q: What was your most recent pre-Deertrees role?

A: I still go back (to Europe) during the winter and work on yachts. Usually either in France or Spain. It makes it possible for me to afford to work here! These are mega-yachts, nothing to do with sailing. But the work at Deertrees is pretty much year-round. With the Internet, I can be anyplace in the world and pretend I'm here in the office.

Q: What do you do on the yachts?

A: I'm just a lowly crew member. There was a day when I used to skipper, but I gave that up.

Q: What would be your dream job, in another life?

A: If not at Deertrees? This has to be the dream job, doesn't it? It's always fun, interacting with the performers and the actors -- it's such a range. Everything from New Orleans clarinetists to the Portland Symphony or someone like Rick Charette. In the course of a week, I meet so many interesting people.

Q: What does the house manager do?

A: In a theater of this size, just about everything. It's an 80-year-old building, so we have the maintenance to take care of. We run 50 different shows during the season, and I'm involved in all the production end of that. We've got the art gallery, and we run three shows there. But the ''directing'' you asked about, no -- that and acting, I don't do. And I do not sing! But that makes it sound so boring, which it isn't. It's anything but boring. You never know what the day will bring.

Q: What kinds of things can it bring?

A: Um, just the unpredictabillity of theater. If something can go wrong, it will. It keeps one on one's toes, always multi-tasking. Juggling everything from press releases to working in the art gallery to preparing for a night's performance. (Executive Director) Lee Bearse and I have always said that we should keep a journal of things that go askew. I remember one evening that we detected a very puzzling odor coming out of the storage closet. Digging down through all the remnants stored there, we found the decaying remains of a trapped raccoon. That was the same day that we lost a Bobcat. We were doing excavation work in the pond next to the theater and the Bobcat fell in the pond, a couple of years ago.

Q: How did you come to the theater?

A: Well, I'm a local boy, from the next town, North Bridgton. I used to come here as a kid. I went to the original Bridgton High School, then went to Illinois to college and transferred down to Texas. I was a business major, studying accounting. I worked my way from the East Coast to the West Coast and then ended up in Europe and came back about 10 years ago. Lee, a good friend, had been offered the job as executive director and I was unemployed, and she said she would take the job if I came along with her.

Q: Any performers ever prove difficult?

A: Um, probably no more difficult than I am to work with!

Q: What makes you difficult?

A: Um, how can I phrase this delicately? Every theater has to have a good cop and a bad cop to make sure that things get done. Ninety percent of the time Lee gets to play the good cop and I play the bad cop.

Q: For example?

A: If someone makes an outlandish request, I will be the one who refuses and then Lee can come in and make a compromise that makes everybody happy. It might be a performer's demand concerning allocating rehearsal time with as much going on as we have, rehearsal time is obviously at a premium, and everybody wants to have more of it.

Q: Did you have a background in the theater?

A: I've never acted, since high school, although I won a speaking prize my junior year. I did an antiwar thing by Dalton Trumble. But wherever I've traveled, I've always gone to performances, like the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, both theatrical and musical.

Q: Who makes up the Deertrees audience?

A: We did a survey last year and found that 50 percent are Maine residents, 25 percent summer residents and 25 percent summer visitors.

Q: Is the location more help or hindrance?

A: It would be wonderful if we had the Route 1 exposure that Ogunquit does. But I think that's balanced by the idyllic location here. We're still less than an hour's drive from Portland.

Q: Your season ends?

A: Labor Day. It's always a great big comedown at the end of the season. You work 12 or 16 hours a day for three months and then bang, it's over. You're so accustomed to looking ahead that suddenly to be able to sit down and be retrospective is very difficult.

Q: The story goes, you taught ex-teen-idol Fabian to water-ski.

A: At the time, 1961, they were bringing a lot of television stars to Deertrees. That was the year that they brought in a lot of television stars, like Allen Case, or Ann B. Davis, who played Schultzy on the ''Bob Cummings Show'' and was also the maid in ''The Brady Bunch.'' More recently? We had Dan Fogler, who won a Tony Award for his role in ''Putnam County Spelling Bee.'' But movie stars today are hesitant to go on stage; they don't do the small theaters like they did in the old straw-hat days.

Q: And Fabian?

A: I was the lifeguard at the old Wyonegonic Inn in North Bridgton. He was staying there -- a lot of the actors stayed at the Wyonegonic, so I got to meet them. A friend of mine had a boat and was willing to go, so we were the ones to teach him.

Q: Was he a good water-skier?

A: Well, we got him up on the skis. He still does an occasional nostalgia show. We've tried to get him back to Deertrees, but it hasn't worked out.

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