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Performing Art
"I like going out in the lobby after a show and hearing people say they loved the set," Matt Nitsch says. "I don't need to hear it to feel good about what I do, but if it happens, it always makes me happy."
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011 6 years ago

Technical prowess

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Matt Nitsch is standing on a ladder on the set of “The Producers.”

Dressed in a black “The Who’s Tommy” T-shirt and carpenter jeans, Nitsch looks official — and busy.

A native of Peoria, Ill., he joined The Players staff as an assistant technical director in 2001 after graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in theater design and production.

A former college classmate hooked him up with the job.

Though Nitsch wanted to work on cruise-ship productions, a full-time job offer in Sarasota was too tempting to turn down.

Ten years later, Nitsch, is still here.

Now the company’s technical director, he’s logged more hours backstage than almost anyone on The Players’ staff.

“There are days where it’s just a job,” he says. “But, for the most part, it’s really fun. It’s not like one of those jobs where every day is the same thing over and over. There’s always a different cast, a different set, a different deadline.”

Speaking of deadlines, Nitsch’s two-week window to prepare for “The Producers” has come to a close. With only one day left to get the show up, the crew is feeling the time crunch.

As soon as this interview is over, Nitsch will head over to the theater’s 10th Street scene shop to build a New York City skyline.

“This is the biggest show of the season,” Nitsch says. “And we’ve got the least amount of time to prepare for it.”

The 34-year-old is surprisingly calm. This isn’t the first time he’s worked under pressure.

Last year, when The Players brought “Tommy” to the International Amateur Theatre Festival in Venice, Nitsch was charged with relocating the set, costumes and pit orchestra instruments, as well as the sound, lighting and special effects equipment.

“Basically, we moved our whole theater to Venice,” he says. “It was an ordeal, but I enjoyed it because it was a challenge.”

Nitsch was never concerned with being the star of the show. Acting, he says, was better left to the kids who could memorize lines.

His forte was working backstage, starting with the day he volunteered to bring in all the props for his fifth-grade production of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“I’ve always liked being the behind-the-scenes guy who makes it happen,” Nitsch says. “I’ve never had the performing bug.”

In high school, he signed up for drama club, where his knack for building and running shows led to gigs with a small theater company in his hometown.

For 10 years, Nitsch worked backstage on Peoria’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which every year coincided with the town’s holiday light show.

He’s seen the show so many times he can recite the chorus from “Any Dream Will Do” in his sleep.
As a result, he doesn’t mind that The Players doesn’t often stage “Joseph.”

“Some shows I just don’t need to watch anymore,” Nitsch says dryly. “It’s like, ‘Been there, done that. Let’s do something new and exciting.’”

If you’ve been in The Players lobby recently, you’ve probably noticed a table of random glass-art pieces for sale near the stage door.

Nitsch is responsible for these one-of-a-kind designs, which he makes using old glasses, goblets, plates and bowls.

Stacking the pieces like a totem, Nitsch creates whimsical garden ornaments that catch the light and add pizzazz to just about any flowerbed.

“The Producers” is playing through March 20, at The Players Theatre. For tickets, call 365-2494 or visit


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