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Behind The Scenes
With...Linda & Mike Merritt


HIS

STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theatre?
I was always interested in acting, and someone suggested I audition for a part in 'Fiddler'.  I did, and got the part of Lazar Wolf.  The adrenaline rush on opening night was unbelievable, and I was hooked.  I later found the technical and backstage areas.  Now, just being involved in any way with a production is all I need, from stagehand to sound tech, and occasionally acting.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
"Fiddler", about 12 years ago.

What was first show you ever saw?
I was about 6 years old when my parents took me to see "Oklahoma" on Broadway.  I'll never forget the thrill seeing live actors performing on stage instead of watching flat black-and-white images on a movie screen.


WHAT I DO

What is your position on a production?
For the Suffolk "Y" Theatre, I generally do the sound, but I do work often at Hofstra USA as a stagehand.  Whenever an appropriate role comes along, I still love to get on stage.  And I have done the lights (on a manual A/B board). 

Describe what your job entails.  What are the duties of a sound technician?
The Sound Technician sets up and operates all the audio equipment used in the production, from floor and body mikes to regular (recorded) and special sound effects (practical doorbells, phones, toilets, etc).  A "practical" sound is one which comes from the stage rather than the sound system itself.
I also have an extensive library of sound effects CD's, and equipment at home which allows me to actually create sound effects CDs for use in shows, whether I'm running the soundboard or not.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
Having an education in electronics, engineering, and computers certainly made it easier, although I don't think it was absolutely necessary.  I'm sure there are classes offered now in all phases of tech work.


MY THEATER EXPERIENCE

What has been your favorite show to work on?
As an actor, "Horowitz and Mrs. Washington" was my favorite.  I had the pleasure of working onstage with Harvard Mann, whom I truly admire.  It didn't hurt to have a great role, that of his son, Marvin.  As a techie, I would have a hard time choosing one, although the most challenging to date was the curtain call of "Rumors" at TTG, as Madame Editor would agree. 

What motivates you to keep doing what you're doing?
Love of theatre, more than anything.  The camaraderie between everyone involved in the production is great, from top to bottom.  And partying after a rehearsals or shows is wonderful.  I'm pretty sure that without the rapport which generally exists in a production, I wouldn't be doing it.

How do you feel about pre-casting?
I believe all directors begin with an idea of whom they think would be right for the part.  But I really think it would best serve theatre on Long Island if there were no pre-casting.  I've seen at least one case where a pre-cast role was given to another actor because he blew the director away during auditions.  If everyone was pre-cast, we'd never get new faces into our shows.
What was your worst theatre experience?
Watching an actor collapse and die during final dress.

What was your best theatre experience?
The opening scene of "Horowitz" begins with Horowitz being wheeled into his apartment in a wheelchair by his son, Marvin.  During one performance, as I opened the door and began to wheel him into the room, the audience broke out in a tremendous round of applause when they recognized Mr. Mann.  I can't describe the satisfaction I felt for him, and how proud I felt to be able to witness it.  After the scene, he admitted he had never had that happen before, and was equally thrilled by it.

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
Try to be more tolerant of those you think are beneath you  you may wind up working for them some day.  And just because you don't get the lead, try not to think it's beneath you to be in the ensemble  you might just find it a more rewarding experience in the long run.

If you could give one message to ALL the directors out there, what would it be?
As I said with pre-casting, try to keep an open mind when auditioning a cast  the perfect person for one of your roles may actually show up for the audition even though you've already decided who you think you would like to have do the role.

If you could give one message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?
Try to be more tolerant of actors  their egos need a lot of stroking because teching is way beyond their abilities.

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
Primarily because of the people involved in the group.  I found over the years that I'd rather work for free where I enjoy the company (from producers to other techies) than get paid to be with people who I don't like or who don't respect me.


FUN

Do you think Long Island theatre will continue to grow?
Deb's Web is one reason I believe we can all be very optimistic.  Also, I see many new faces coming into theatre today at places like Hofstra and the Suffolk "Y", both as actors and techies.  It's very encouraging, and the product is definitely improving, both from the production values and the tech equipment.

What brings you greatest joy?
My grandchildren, although my family probably doesn't know it.

What irks you?
People who lie.

If you won lotto tomorrow you would...
Probably retire, and spend more time in theatrical endeavors.  I always hoped to be able to perform in some day-rep productions, but it's hard when you have to work for a living.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
I'd settle for either one  and I'd love to be able to dance, sing, and play piano, too.   ;-)

What's your favorite word?
Actually, I have to give Jim Bouton (former Yankee pitcher) credit for this  I read it in his book "Ball Four", and it was love at first site  "Sh.tf..k".  He claimed one of his managers used it all the time, and alternated between that and "F..ks..t".

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
Welcome  we've been waiting for you  you're perfect for this role.


THE FUTURE

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like the readers to know about?
The Suffolk "Y" Theatre is producing an original revue written by two of the people involved in the group.  It presents all the songs made famous by Judy Garland, and should really be a great show.  It plays there in January, and if you get any pleasure from her songs, you shouldn't miss it

What is your dream theatrical project?
A full-time job after I retire, doing tech work or day rep anywhere.
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HERS

STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theatre?
After watching my husband, Mike, in more than 30 performances of "Fiddler", I decided to join the team, but behind the scenes.

What hooked you? School play, Broadway show, etc.
After stage managing my first show, theatre was in my blood.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
The first show I worked on is not very well known, but holds a very special place in my heart  "Horowitz and Mrs. Washington".  After telling the theatre owners I wanted to get involved, I was asked to be an Assistant Stage Manager.  I said fine, even though I had no idea what that entailed.  When I went to the first rehearsal, I was told I did such a great job, I was being promoted to Stage Manager.  The rest is history.

What was first show you ever saw?
We have to go back a few years for this one  the original "King and I", with Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence.


WHAT I DO

What is your position on a production?
Anything from Stage Manager to Assistant Stage Manager to Running Crew to helping the cast with quick costume changes.

Describe what your job entails.  What are the duties of a (your title here, e.g., producer, stage mgr., lighting designer, etc.) job?  (This question is for the unenlightened out there :-)
This covers everything from chief cook to bottle washer, although I really don't cook, and rarely do the dishes.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
No, but I had a very enthusiastic director who took me under her wing, sat with me, and taught me how to take down blocking, handle scene changes, set the props, call a show, etc.


MY THEATER EXPERIENCE

What has been your favorite show to work on?
I can't single out just one, but it was really fun actually being out in the lights in "Fiddler.." at Hofstra.

What motivates you to keep doing what your doing?
Getting together with old friends, and meeting new ones.

How do you feel about pre-casting?
No pre-casting  you can never tell what gems you'll find out there.

What was your worst theater experience?
Seeing a friend die in front of me during a dress rehearsal.

What was your best theater experience?
Taking my first bow.

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
Try being a techie for one show  it won't kill you, and you'll be a better person for it.

If you could give one message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?
If you don't love what you're doing, give it up.

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
Because of the people involved, and the consideration and camaraderie shown by all.


FUN

Do you think Long Island theater will continue to grow?
I certainly hope so.

What    brings you greatest joy?
A simple "Thank You".

What irks you?
Not being appreciated for my efforts.

If you won lotto tomorrow you would...
Travel all over the world.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
Absolutely.

What's your favorite word?
F**K!

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
I'm really not ready to think about it yet.