Some people do so much on their own time, without ever wanting credit for all they do. There are two such men who work with the students at Portsmouth West High School. These men deserve so much credit and thanks, yet neither one asks for anything in return.
Ed Ingles and Gary Tieman have been constructing and building Portsmouth West High School stage sets for many years. Tieman has been working on the stages for 30 years for his wife, Linda Tieman, music teacher and musical director. He says he has been doing it ever since she began as director. Ingles has been working with Tieman for 13 years.
Behind the curtain, these men make some amazing pieces of work that have kept audiences mesmerized for years. They can create things that others have only seen on TV or Broadway productions.
The two began working together when Ingles’ children went to PWHS years ago. “I went to one of the musicals, and after that, I went to Bob Evans and I saw Gary and Linda sitting there. I walked up to them and said if you ever need any help, I’ll help you,” Ingles recalls.
Tieman laughingly points out, “Worse thing he ever said.”
Ingles says Tieman grabbed him, and he has been working with him ever since.
“I’m a theater fanatic,” Tieman says. “I‘ve seen a lot of shows, I’ve seen how the pros do it, and I’ll take out a budget and try to do as well, based on our budget and capabilities. We’ll see pictures, we’ll watch videos, maybe we’ll travel — we’ve done that numerous times. We’ll travel hundreds of miles to see a production that we feel is a quality production, and we’ll ‘steal.’ We’ll take it and redesign it to fit our space, budget and our time.”
Ingles used to do this while working, but has since retired, and he and Tieman can now work at the school during the day in the wood shop. They will work six to eight to even 14 hours a day sometimes, they said humorously.
When asked about the hardest thing they’ve ever done, they laughed and said the next show is the hardest. They then answered truthfully, that “Cinderella” was very hard, because they had to make the horses, the carriage, made the design of the pumpkin opening and the castle. Tieman said “Cinderella” has all those iconic things musical productions have to have. “You have to have Cinderella’s coach, horses, pumpkin, so each individual show has its own set of requirements.”
Tieman said for the flying done in shows, Portsmouth West hires a company called ZFX Flying. He said they flew Cathy Rigby in the Broadway version of “Peter Pan,” and they have shows that are global. The girl working on “Beauty and the Beast” this time is going to Brazil to do a couple of shows there. The company is truly international.
When talking about how Linda gives them what she wants in a show, Ingles said with humor, “She’ll say she needs a prop or piece to hold maybe two or three people, and we’ve learned through the years to triple or quadruple that number. If she says two or three, she’s gonna have a dozen there. So we have to make everything real sturdy. We do make everything for the kids.”
Tieman adds, “Linda’s vision for a show is here (he pointed to his head). When she reads a script, she has a vision for what she wants. Her vision may want Ed and me to bend a 2 by 4 in a circle. We can’t do that, but we will do something similar to that to give her the vision she wants.”
Ingles says, “In the last few years, we’ve sat down with her and told her to try to give us what she wants, then Gary and I will sit down and draw it out. We don’t just start doing it.”
They have to build the props to fit her vision, plus they’ve got to work it to fit where it is going to be placed or moved. Tieman says it is all mathematics.
Ingles said that before retiring, he owned a restaurant that is gone now, and Tieman was a pipe fitter with the union.
“I enjoy it to the end, and I do it for the kids,” Ingles says.
The kids in the musicals love Ingles and Tieman. They mention them when they talk about any of the musicals in which they are involved. Ingles says the kids give them what they need to make their job better.
Ingles says Tieman turned him loose on this particular musical to make what he called the contraption. This contraption was the invention Belle’s father had made to chop wood in “Beauty and the Beast.” The contraption was clearly very similar to the one in the movie. It had a wooden axe that moved up and down, and a wood burner that gave the illusion of a real fire burning in it.
Tieman and Ingles say they have their props and scenery move, and made it clear it is not computerized or anything like that. They put most things on wheels where the performers or stage hands can move them easily. For “Beauty and the Beast,” the performers moved them. They noted that for the well Linda wanted to go out on stage by itself, and they hooked it up with a something that could not be seen, giving it the illusion that the well moved on and off the stage by itself. The show had the country village, the tavern, the castle, a path in the woods and Belle’s cottage, and the biggest percentage of the set was made thoroughly by these men with wood. None of the props were bought, they both said. People will ask where they buy or rent it, but they tell them they made it all.
“Everything on this show, except the backdrops, Ed and I have constructed,” Tieman notes. They even do all of the painting of each piece. These men go all out, and do all of this voluntarily and by themselves. A
At the end of the final show, Ingles says they have drills, and kids disassemble each piece and put it in the back of the trailer and take it back to the school where it will be reused and re-purposed for the next show. The kids and parents help with this process. “I don’t how many times some of these 2 by 4s have bee reused program after program.” Tieman adds, “We literally recognize pieces from other shows.”
They both observe that they will spend hours upon hours putting pieces together, and at the end of the show, it is all disassembled in about 20 minutes. The reason they have to take it all apart is due to the amount of storage area at the school.
So will they do it again? Without hesitation, both say of course they will. This is why these men are so beloved, and why they deserve to be honored for all they’ve done. The people of West Portsmouth have these diamonds in the rough who give so much for the kids and people of the community. Anyone who has seen their hard work come alive in a musical will attest to their invaluable contributions.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins at 740-353-3101 ext. 1928