BUILDING THE MAGIC
When you watch a show at MTYP you’re transported into fantastical new worlds. The world – be it the Hundred Acre Wood or Narnia – is created over the course of months by our fantastic Production Team. As Head Scenic Carpenter at MTYP, Chris Hadley is responsible for making these worlds as magical as possible.
Hadley has been at MTYP for the last five seasons. While having a career in theatre has been a dream come true, Hadley wasn’t always working backstage. He was a practicing mechanic until the age of 25. Needing a change, he enrolled in makeup and set-building classes at The University of Winnipeg and the rest is, as they say, history.
“Now I’m 21 years into my theatre career,” says Hadley, who has worked at Rainbow Stage, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, as the head of the makeup department at The Manitoba Opera, and virtually “everywhere in town.”
While Winnipeg’s a growing hotspot for film and TV productions, Hadley says he’ll gladly stick to theatre. Although he’s done work on film sets, it’s the live aspect of theatre that made him fall in love with it. “The audience sees a show and then it’s done, it will never happen again. Each performance is different, even if it’s a 20-show run.”
While there’s an obvious difference between film and theatre, Hadley says there’s also a huge difference working on sets for adult’s versus children’s theatre. “There’s always magic we have to put in,” he says. Because kids are so honest, he knows almost immediately when he’s done a good (or bad) job.
“They will tell you if they don’t like the show right then and there. They will literally say, ‘Mommy, daddy, this sucks.’” This honesty encourages him to work even harder to make the world of the show come alive.
When asked to recall a time when kids had a hugely positive reaction to a show, Hadley doesn’t hesitate. He tells the story of when he was the venue technician at MTYP and the show The Canada Show was running. Originally a Fringe play, when it was produced at MTYP they added a scene where a disco ball appears. Hadley didn’t have high hopes for how this would land. “I mean, come on, it’s a disco ball,” he says. But when the curtain rose and the disco ball had its moment, Hadley says the kids “absolutely lost their minds.”
Set-wise, he looks back on The House at Pooh Corner very fondly. “As soon as the curtains open and the lights come on, they’re transported. It’s a big wow factor.”
For Hadley, working in the production department at MTYP is all about collaboration. If Head of Wardrobe, Kevin, needs something built, Hadley’s there, toolkit in hand. If Janelle, Head of Properties, needs help with a prop, he’s got time to spare. He even built a cabinet in the front lobby, replaced carpets in a few of our offices, and built the protective screen at the box office.
“We’re all departments of one,” he says, “But we work together and, at the end of the day, it makes for a positive environment.”
We asked Chris some quick-fire questions – here’s what he had to say:
Favourite holiday: “Halloween.”
Favourite scary movie: “The original Frankenstein.”
Movies you’d take with you to a deserted island that has a DVD player and TV: “Frankenstein, The Crow, and Airplane.”
Go-to karaoke song: “My son, Finnian, and I sing The Greatest Showman playlist.”
Favourite colour: *Gestures to black shirt*
Favourite local restaurant: “Colosseo.”
Favourite hangout spot: “The King’s Head.”
What you’re most excited to do when the pandemic ends: “See my friends. And work. I love what I do, but it’s theatre, not film. I want to have people in the seats. Everyone needs an escape and that’s what theatre gives you.”