Most local performing arts companies, musicians, speakers and the like are aware of local Leo Scholosser, technical director for the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts (VRCFA). However, if you haven’t had much time behind the velvet grand drapes of the theatre, chances are you haven’t dealt with him much, if at all.
Even the black shadows of stagehands are often witnessed during scene changes, but Schlosser is not. This is because he does his job properly, behind the scenes and out of sight.
I worked under Schlosser as a stagehand at the VRCFA for a few years during college. Since then, I have also worked with each local performing arts outlet. I can honestly claim that no one in the local theatre community has instantly acquired my respect, and continued to keep it, in the way Schlosser has. I firmly believe Schlosser is one of the most essential staffed employees the university has on payroll.
Without Schlosser, the theatre would be an unorganized and chaotic mess. Not only that, but Schlosser ascertains that all public events are properly microphoned, lit up and ready to go. I’ve seen Schlosser design lighting plots,which are required to be perfect before 7 p.m. the day of a Broadway show. I’ve seen him handle highly stressful situations in a smooth manner and still manage to get everything done. This man can complete the work of many, in a shorter time, while even making it a better quality.
More than just years of experience go into his incredible work. The reason he is so great at what he does, is because he doesn’t consider himself an employee of the performing theatrical companies, but a worker for the members of the audience who attend his shows. Every move Schlosser makes is to ensure the shows at the VRCFA have everything they need to be enjoyable for the audience sitting in his house.
Working under Schlosser, I learned more about theatre than through any other work I’ve completed or any other theatre class I have taken. It is a shame he isn’t in the classroom more often, because he not only knows his trade, but is excellent at explaining it and working with students.
During his 14 years of service to Shawnee State University, Schlosser has ensured over 1,100 successful events.
Schlosser has been with the Vern Riffe Center since they opened in 1995. He previously worked with the University of Huston, Villanova University, Alfred University and Ball State University. He moved to Portsmouth to assume the role of technical director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts when they first opened their doors.
Schlosser had other job opportunities and offers when he left Ball State, but said he took his current position at Shawnee State for the opportunity of shaping a theatre from the ground up, completely with his own methods and policies.
He began his interest in performing arts as a kid in grade school, when he and his brother would borrow their uncle’s camera and film short movies. After a journey of discovering film, television and various arts, Schlosser said he was bitten by the “theatre bug” and was hooked.
During a lengthy career in the performing arts, Schlosser has been involved with all aspects of theatre, but when he was deciding on a direction in which to aim his career, he chose technical directing for a reason.
Schlosser’s decision to pursue technical directing stemmed from the fact that his job is essentially a theatre problem solver. Being an efficient problem solver, the job was appealing to him in many ways, especially in a collaborative scene like theatre.
“Theatre is the only truly collaborative form of art and I truly enjoy that aspect of it,” Schlosser said. “Film, television, recorded music is all sequential. It follows steps and order, but performance is live and requires the collaboration of everyone then and there. It gives you an energy that doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
When you leave your next show at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts, know that behind every successful stagehand, technical aspect, and the like, was the theatre mastermind whose job is to solely ensure your viewing experience was the best it could be.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.