Techies must have passion
Shedding light on the guy who keeps things lit

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 26/97) - "Theatre is my love, my passion," says Michael Sawatzky.

It's just as well, because his job is to light up the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre stage.

"I don't think you can do this without passion. When I wake up one day and don't want to do it any more," he says.

Sawatzky didn't always want to work in theatre. At one time he ran an A&W in Cardston, Alta. But on his way to a degree in education at the University of Manitoba he got side-tracked.

His courseload included classes in theatre, how to be a stage manager, set construction and how to set the whole mood on stage as the light guy.

That was it. Sawatzky was hooked. At one time he was working 13 shows in 10 days during a fringe festival.

He became a freelance technician, doing everything from building sets to lights.

In 1993 he thought he'd give Yellowknife a try. It hasn't always been easy.

"My motto is, 'no problem. The show always goes up on time.' That's the only thing I'm sure of. No matter what's happening at 7:55 p.m., at 8 p.m. the curtain will go up," says Sawatzky.

One of his tricks was getting 55 Ukrainian dancers on the NACC stage which is half the size they're used to.

The worst part of the job is that he works on weekends and nights. Oh yeah, and another bad time was the time he fell off a ladder.

"The light guy sets the mood on stage, lets the audience see the actors and creates atmosphere," he says.

"With front lighting, people on stage look one dimensional, when a lighting guy back lights it, the body comes alive, it's 3-D."

Meeting actors, famous or otherwise, is also fun. Whether it's Tom Jackson or Tommy Hunter, they're all the same to Sawatzky. They all have to be lit.

The slickest show he's ever lit on the NACC stage was the new Aurora Award show, a tribute to local performers. Not only did the show go well, but Sawatzky won an award for best technician.