Here’s how Victor Meyrich came to the Asolo Repertory Theatre.
It was 1969. Meyrich, a graduate of Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University), was working backstage for a theater company in Memphis, Tenn., that was going bankrupt.
Actress Polly Holliday, who would later go on to play a tough-talking waitress on the 1970s sitcom, “Alice,” had just wrapped a show at the same Memphis theater.
Upon learning that his employer was going belly-up, Meyrich, then 26, planned to return to his native New York to work for legendary theater producer Joe Papp.
Holliday, however, suggested he go to Sarasota, where she had just landed a role in the musical, “Oh, What a Lovely War,” at the Asolo Rep.
The timing was perfect.
The Asolo Rep needed a technical director, and Meyrich needed a job.
The theater company was still trying to find its identity, operating out of a building Meyrich now refers to as “the prehistoric Asolo.”
The scene shop was a fraction of the size it is today and located on a dirt road off 12th Street. Technology, by today’s standards, was primitive.
Meyrich remembers operating the theater’s dimmer lights with a broomstick and prop shopping with a Polaroid camera.
“By the time you took a picture of a prop, mailed it to the set designer and waited for him to call you back, the prop would be gone,” Meyrich says. “Today we take a picture with our iPhone, email it to the designer and buy it on the spot.”
Meyrich has four decades of stories like this, most of which you’ll probably never hear because Meyrich, 69, is not the storyteller-type.
“I’ve done this kind of work for as long as I can remember,” Meyrich says. “In middle school I ran the A/V department. They gave me the keys to the building so I could move equipment in and out for shows. I was 11 years old with the keys to my school.”
Meyrich is still that dependable.
For 43 seasons he’s worked as the Asolo Rep’s stalwart production manager, an achievement that was recognized last weekend at the Florida Professional Theatres Association’s annual audition conference in Vero Beach.
On May 19, Meyrich received the Victor “Vic” Meyrich Award for Excellence in and Dedication to Professional Theatre in the Area of Technical and Production Work — a wordy title for a direct guy.
The statewide organization, which usually only honors artistic leadership, had not only selected Meyer as the recipient of its first technical theater award, it chose to name the honor after him.
The reticent 69-year-old was visibly touched by the gesture.
“I’m not aware of anyone else honoring those of us in technical theater,” Meyrich says. “The guys who put the show together backstage are usually not even mentioned (in the playbill). It’s an honor, but for me, the real satisfaction comes from walking away with a production done on time and on budget.”
A carpenter by trade, Meyrich likens his job to the work of a general contractor. As production manager, he’s responsible for overseeing the technical operation of the entire theater, which in season can mean managing a crew of 20 to 40 people.
He divides his time between two offices: one at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts and the other at the new Koski Production Center on Tallevast Road, which, at a whopping 36,000 square feet, is a dream space for Meyrich, who once built the set for Universal Studios’ “Earthquake” in a cramped Sarasota warehouse with poor air conditioning.
“He’s amazingly capable and creative,” says managing director Linda DiGabriele, who has worked with Meyrich for 35 years. “He’s kept up with technology at every level and consistently made sure that the product on stage is what everybody has envisioned.”
Meyrich is decidedly less flowery when it comes to articulating his success.
“I don’t micro-manage,” he says. “I’m a big believer in letting people do their job. I find people have a higher standard of quality when they take ownership over what they do. At the end of the day, it’s all about having faith in people. I’m just a resource.”
DID YOU KNOW
Victor Meyrich wrote the original architectural program for the current FSU Center for the Performing Arts. He also oversaw the design of the new Koski Production Center.
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