John Reynolds’ trip to Hawaii couldn’t have come at a better time.
Employed as the scenic arts manager at The Players Theatre, Reynolds, who moonlights as a scenic painter for other local theater companies, was tasked last month with painting a volcano for “South Pacific,” which opened last week at the Manatee Players.
“Maybe I can use the trip as a tax write-off,” Reynolds quips as he slips the ukulele he played at Hawaii’s Ukulele Festival back into its case. “Just kidding.”
Now in his sixth season at The Players, Reynolds, 45, is as passionate about painting and designing sets as he is about playing music.
“It’s about making a vision become a reality,” Reynolds says. “With anything I do, there’s a certain amount of yourself you put into the work. I think everyone is an artist in their own way.”
If you’ve lived in Sarasota for a while, you might recognize Reynolds’ face from his days playing guitar with the band, Souvenir. In the mid-’90s the group played almost every club from Venice to Bradenton.
Reynolds occasionally plays in The Players’ pit orchestra and often serenades theater patrons in the lobby on opening night.
Earlier this summer, he played the violin on stage in “Pete’s Repair Shop.” The role required him to say one line of dialogue and “act” using only his instrument.
He describes the performance as “Harpo-Marx-meets-Jack-Benny,” and then blushes at the reference.
“I’m not pushing it,” he says of acting. “I’m introverted, but I do like to show off sometimes. I think people who are in the arts are all secretly introverted and they overcompensate for it by finding a way to express themselves.”
He landed his first major project for The Players in 2004, when the set designer for “The Sound of Music” gave him 24 hours to turn a plain muslin backdrop into the Swiss Alps.
“I went to the scene shop, laid out the muslin and put on a pot of coffee,” Reynolds says. “It was my first show, and it’s still one of my favorites.”
Cranking out a mural on a 24-hour deadline might seem like a nightmare to some people, but in a sense, Reynolds thrives on the pressure.
“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you don’t need motivation,” Reynolds says. “Sometimes the most passionate people need the most motivation.”
It’s no coincidence that Reynolds views his role at The Players through self-help-tinted glasses. The father-of-three has studied psychology on and off at Argosy University.
“What I do isn’t rocket science,” he says. “It’s a lot of initiative, a little romance and the inevitable dirty grunt work.”
He’s referencing his latest project — painting The Players’ lobby, a decidedly less creative chore. As the theater’s fall season gets closer, Reynold’s last-minute list of to-dos gets longer.
However, the non-housekeeping tasks will start soon.
The Players kicks off its 81st season Sept. 16, with the staple off-Broadway musical, “The Fantasticks,” the set of which Reynolds describes as an “avant-garde evacuated circus.”
“I try to do the best I can do,” Reynolds says, “not just for the theater, but also for the sake of my own soul, if that doesn’t sound too corny.”
DID YOU KNOW?
• John Reynolds is a former Air Force medic. Prior to working in the arts, he worked as a paramedic for Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
• In addition to painting theater sets, Reynolds is a skilled trompe l’oeil mural painter.
•Reynolds has six dogs, a chicken, a goat and a 30-year-old cockatiel he acquired while working as a bird keeper at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at email@example.com.
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