Let’s Put on a Show!

RSWLiving - - Contents - BY KELLY MAD­DEN

For some­one just shy of 40, Tim Bill­man has trav­eled a lot of miles dur­ing his ca­reer in lo­cal theater. The pro­duc­tion man­ager at Florida Reper­tory The­atre in down­town Fort My­ers got the bug for be­hindthe-scenes theater pro­duc­tion at a very young age, specif­i­cally in stage-light­ing de­sign.

“I was ex­posed to the world of theater pro­duc­tion early, and I started to be­lieve that I could do that, and I could add my own ideas to it and make it bet­ter,” says the af­fa­ble Bill­man. “I just re­ally love the cre­ative pro­cesses in­volved in put­ting a sea­son of shows to­gether.”

Now in his fifth sea­son at Florida Rep, Bill­man has worked for sev­eral lo­cal theater houses in North Carolina, Texas and the West.

When you ask him what he does with the ma­jor­ity of his time at the theater, the answer is a very good over­view of his job. “I’m ba­si­cally in charge of ev­ery­thing on­stage that’s not an ac­tor,” Bill­man ex­plains. “I over­see ev­ery­thing from stage de­sign and con­struc­tion, light­ing di­rec­tion, the show’s cos­tumes and props, sound and pro­jec­tion, and more.”

Florida Rep is a sta­ple of the lo­cal cul­tural arts scene, now en­ter­ing its 21st sea­son of put­ting on shows both grand and gran­u­lar. For the 2018-19 sea­son, the theater is pre­sent­ing a di­verse ar­ray of shows, in­clud­ing two mu­si­cals, mul­ti­ple come­dies, a mod­ern Amer­i­can clas­sic, a south­east­ern United States premiere, and a world-premiere adap­ta­tion of Charles Dick­ens’ A Christ­mas Carol. Bill­man spends his day—and very of­ten nights—look­ing af­ter what he feels are the two main fo­cuses of his job. “My days are di­vided be­tween mak­ing sure my cre­ative teams have ev­ery­thing they need to do their jobs, and think­ing and plan­ning for the fu­ture, which in this busi­ness can mean it will sel­dom go like you had planned.” Florida Rep has grown into a siz­able en­tity, with three other fa­cil­i­ties in ad­di­tion to the 393-seat theater it­self. There are ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices, a cos­tume shop and a scene shop, all op­er­at­ing un­der the over­sight of Bill­man. “There are many chal­lenges in­volved in se­lect­ing all our cre­ative tal­ent— from light­ing and sound de­sign­ers to cos­tume and set-build­ing peo­ple—that mean I’ve got to jug­gle a lot of balls.” Dur­ing a typ­i­cal sea­son the theater has about 55 staffers and in­terns, and Bill­man likes to do what he can to en­sure they all have a pos­i­tive work-life bal­ance. “Mak­ing sure that every­one is com­fort­able and pro­duc­tive means they’re hap­pier, and will

“I’m ba­si­cally in charge of ev­ery­thing on stage that’s not an ac­tor.” —Tim Bill­man

ul­ti­mately do ev­ery­thing they can to present our ticket hold­ers with the best the­atri­cal prod­uct we can.”

Dur­ing the sum­mer, the theater staff is im­mersed in plan­ning and pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing sea­son. Bill­man and his team lead­ers go over a com­pre­hen­sive list of what is needed to bring each show to the stage. They then build each team to make it all come to­gether. Plans and artis­tic pro­pos­als are sub­mit­ted, and Bill­man goes to work fine-tun­ing all of the el­e­ments to fall within his vi­sion and the pro­duc­tion bud­get for each up­com­ing show.

The Florida Reper­tory The­atre is known as an in­no­va­tive lo­cal theater group, bring­ing in the best tal­ent for each facet of ev­ery show in or­der to put on the best pro­duc­tion. Scenic de­sign­ers, set de­sign and fab­ri­ca­tion artists, light­ing pro­fes­sion­als and cos­tume de­sign­ers are all hired specif­i­cally for each show. “For­tu­nately, I’m able to build each team of in­di­vid­u­als who then all work to­gether to make sure we put on the best show we can,” Bill­man says.

The re­sults have proven that they must be do­ing some­thing right in pro­vid­ing im­pres­sive live theater to the re­gion. Florida Rep’s shows have re­sulted in much crit­i­cal ac­claim: The

Wall Street Jour­nal called it “one of Amer­ica’s top reper­tory com­pa­nies;” it has been named “Best Per­form­ing Arts Group” nu­mer­ous times by Gulf­shore

Life Mag­a­zine and Florida Weekly. The theater’s work has also been fea­tured in the New York Times and cov­ered in Amer­i­can The­atre Mag­a­zine.

Pro­duc­tion man­ager Bill­man has had theater in his blood since he was a teenager, and his pas­sion for the work has not waned. “It’s re­ally re­ward­ing when our au­di­ence loves our shows,” he says, “and that is one of the things that keeps my cre­ative fires burn­ing.”

Scenic de­sign­ers, set de­sign and fab­ri­ca­tion artists, light­ing pro­fes­sion­als and cos­tume de­sign­ers are all hired specif­i­cally for each show.

Con­sid­ered one of the countr y’s pre­em­i­nent reper­tory com­pa­nies, Florida Rep puts on a full sea­son of plays, come­dies and mu­si­cals. Last spring’s sched­ule in­cluded Cabaret with Jil­lian Louis.

Past pro­duc­tions at Florida Rep have in­cluded TwelveAn­gryMen (top) and TooMarvelo­us­forWords with Michael McAssey, Julie Kavanagh and James David Lar­son (bot­tom). The posters above fea­ture some of the shows on the sched­ule for the up­com­ing sea­son.

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