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Dynamic duo

Ted Alvarez
AE Graham Olsen PU 1-21-07
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BEAVER CREEK – Stage manager Graham Olson and master electrician Colin Casanova are experts at covering mistakes. They’re responsible for running lights, sound and all the backstage action at the Vilar, and though they like to keep things running as smoothly as possible, they often have to fix bugs on the fly, in real time. But when they do, you’ll probably never notice.”Once, during the very beginning of a showing of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ all the lighting cues were just gone,” Casanova said. “All the work I had done in the previous two hours had just magically disappeared.”Olson, who was working in the sound booth, feared the worst.”They were about to start singing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ in the dark,” he said.But Colin pulled it together and rewrote all the light cues on the fly, and the audience was none the wiser.

“Tons of little things go wrong, but you learn to make it look real and like you meant it; you correct slowly,” Casanova said. “We’ve had to do whole shows blind – but we haven’t had anyone fall out of the sky.””Knock on wood,” both of them say, simultaneously.Olson and Casanova share a tight rapport born out of mutual respect and years working together; they seem to possess almost a shared sixth-sense when it comes to each others’ stage instincts. Olson primarily handles backstage movements and sound, while Colin manages lights and visuals – the two have to match perfectly, whether in plays, concerts or other live events at the Vilar.”For me, to a lesser extent, (I) get that feeling a performer gets,” Olson said. “You have to perform and execute. Curtain pulls, lighting cues – it all has to be perfect. It’s the thrill of being part of live theater.”Olson, who plays cello and graduated from St. Olaf College with a musical performance degree, moved from performing with string quartets to controlling things behind the scenes, while Casanova has always had a hand in backstage machinations since his early days backing Vegas magician Greg Wilson.

“At 19, we went to Japan for two months,” Casanova said. “After that, I was a lighting director on Royal Caribbean cruises, but then I got an e-mail from the old stage manager asking me, ‘wanna ski?’ I gave up one paradise for the other.”Both Casanova and Graham feed off of the inspiration generated by working with and being surrounded by art and performance.”I like the rock concerts, and a lot of the modern dance,” Olson said. “It involves a lot of work, but it’s really rewarding. It’s something you have to think about and use your entire skill set, but it’s great to see when it comes off.”Sometimes, though, inspiring performances lead to headaches in the control booth.”We just had Bruce Hornsby, and he was amazing, but there was no setlist – he just played requests,” Casanova said. “We had to really focus on the show, trying to match lighting cues and sound with whatever his audience requested. And afterward, one of the ladies at the show came up and asked me, ‘So what do you do for a job?'”

While he’s now got the run of the Vilar backstage, Olson still harbors a soft spot for being onstage.”I really do like performing,” he said. “I enjoy keeping it so no one knows you’re there, but performing is important to me too.”Casanova, however, is content to be a faceless wizard behind the lights.”I’d rather be behind the stage making it look good without letting people know how or why – someone else can go sign autographs,” he said.For both Olson and Casanova, it’s all worth it when the whole package – lights, sound and performance – wraps up in a transcendent experience for all involved.

“After Big Head Todd & the Monsters, I had a smile on my face for like three days,” Casanova said. “We had great sound, great lights, and I opened the paper the next day to see great photos of it all. I’m like, ‘that’s us!'”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado CO


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