Jeff Marchant Celebrates 100 Shows at PCS
Posted by Kinsley Suer | 10 January 2013
I Love to Eat is Scene Shop Manager Jeff Marchant's 100th production at Portland Center Stage. Congratulations Jeff! In celebration of this incredible milestone, we recently asked Jeff to reflect on his time spent with PCS, his favorite productions, the most unusual materials he's ever had to work with, and the reasons why theater inspires him.
What brought you to Portland and PCS?
Wanderlust, youth and my brother's 1978 Pontiac Bonneville. Basically it was a fluke. We left the East Coast with everything we owned and headed for Seattle. While camping one night somewhere in Kansas, my wife Nicole looked at me and said, "I don't think I want to go to Seattle." Really, neither did I. We pulled out a map and found Portland. Ocean to the west, mountains and desert to the east, and forests all around. Looked good. We had never been here and didn't know anyone, but we headed for town. That was 1995.
What is your most vivid memory of your time spent at PCS?
Some of my most vivid memories are of things that took place on stage. Anna and the Tropics, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sometimes a Great Notion, Flesh and Blood, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Cripple of Inishman...
Sometimes a Great Notion
What was your favorite show to work on? Why?
Sometimes a Great Notion is such a special novel to me. When I heard we were producing the stage premiere of Kesey's novel my first reaction was, "We better not screw up this story for me." In the end the writing, directing, acting and production were all spot on. I am particularly proud of being a part of bringing that story to the stage.
Is there a set piece or project that you are particularly proud of?
The West Side Story sign, My Fair Lady, the boat for Snow Falling on Cedars, The North Plan, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest... I have had the opportunity to work with so many talented artists throughout the years. There really is so much to be proud of.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
What’s the most unusual material you’ve ever had to work with on a PCS set?
Nothing seems that unusual anymore. The most unusual materials are the real ones. We have dozens of ways to fake gravel or brick. The challenge is when a designer insists on the real thing.
What’s the strangest or most surprising question anyone has asked you about building scenery?
Much of my job is finding those materials. I interact a lot with contractor supply vendors who are used to only dealing in the "real" world. I am often told, "You know that piece of equipment/material is not meant for that?" And I have to explain, "I know. We are going to modify it."
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Is there a set you’d most like to forget?
Many. If I could erase one moment it would be the load in of the first year of our third version of A Christmas Carol. In my haste to put that monster set on stage I misread the ground plan and landed the whole set two feet too far downstage. We had just spent five days installing the set in the wrong place. In four hours time we struck the set, swept the floor and started again. You should have seen the look on the stage manager's face when she found us taking the set down! In ten hours the next day we had the set standing again. I keep trying to forget that mistake, but no one will let me.
What is it about theater that inspires you?
This is a quote from a teacher and mentor. I committed it to memory some 20 years ago. It has become a mantra of sorts.
"Few of us would agree to the transient existence, the meager pay, the long hours and the quixotic nature of the work if we did not love it...Most of us, however, have no choice. We are willing to gamble and sacrifice to pursue a career in the theatre. It fulfills some basic need in our natures: a need to play, to make believe, to live out other lives, to learn about other worlds than our own, to be transported. We experience a freedom and joy that are beyond rational understanding. We become the myth makers, the story tellers, the creators of dreams and illusions, the purveyors of truth. For ultimately theatre is about timeless truths and the quality of the lives that we lead." - Helen Manfull
My Fair Lady
If you weren’t working in theater, what do you think you’d be doing?
That's a tough one. That same teacher always said that if there is anything else that theater people can imagine doing, they should go do it. I don't know. Forest Ranger. Scuba Diver.
OK, enough about work. What’s important to you outside of the theater?
Camping, hiking, snowshoeing, traveling. Of course my wife Nicole and my dogs are the world to me.