Bryce McWilliams: Designer and Production Manager – Theatre People
By Mitch Stark
Good morning TheatrePeople! Today I’m so excited to share my interview with theatrical jack-of-all-trades, Bryce McWilliams. I met Bryce while teaching at a summer Thespian conference in Tyler, Texas—where he is the resident theatrical go-to man at Tyler Junior College.
Bryce’s ideas and enthusiasm (as well as kindness and generosity) for theatre tech is endless, and I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did!
Bryce McWilliams, Theatre Manager at Tyler Junior College in Texas
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
The first show that comes to mind is The Woodsman by James Ortiz. It’s a wonderful example of imagination, playfulness, and collaboration. There is virtually no dialogue except for exposition letting us know that we are somewhere outside of Oz, and there is an oppressive witch whose spies have made it impossible to speak without risk. From there we watch the story unfold with music, pantomime and puppetry. The ensemble creates the world of the story, and yet it feels as though the story has a mind of its own. Every time I watch it, I can’t help but dive into another project.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
When I was 19, I was part of a troupe that was invited to a festival in Poland. For ten days I was enthralled with everything going on around me, and loved meeting people and sharing stories, even if we didn’t have any language in common. One group from Czech Republic built their scenery from bamboo canes and paper cutouts, and moved the scenery on pulley systems made of twine. I watched as the characters became despondent, stuck in the melancholy of everyday life, and even caught myself grinding my teeth as their anxiety overtook them. At the end of the hour long show, the protagonist decides to plant a flower in a pot, and comes home one day to find it has sprouted. The actor, as well as all of us watching, breathed such a sigh of relief and it was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever experienced as we all celebrated a paper sunset and handmade potted plant.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
The most panic inducing “fail” I’ve had was a problem microphone. My sound engineer alerted me that the lead in our sold out performance of In the Heights couldn’t be heard. Technicians were scrambling to troubleshoot, and tried everything they could think of. After several scenes and dance numbers of silence from our lead, the lighting designer sent me a text from the house – “why do I hear the dressing room?” Usnavi’s mic had been switched with a chorus member, so every time we were watching the protagonist, we were hearing green room gossip and the crunch of doritos.
Why do you love theatre?
Theatre transports us to a reality that we collectively create. As a child I loved using my imagination to create elaborate worlds and explore. Now as an adult, I get to invite others to explore unknown worlds, often through the eyes of someone with a new perspective. At its base theatre is entertaining, but at its height, theatre is life-changing—a collective adventure.
Theatre is for…
There is a profound joy that comes from a collaborating on a show, but an audience breathes life into it. Together the audience and performers create a world that is very real to them, and it only exists for that moment. Even if a show runs for years, it’s completely new and unexplored every time.
More about Bryce
After years of touring and regional theatre, Bryce has found a new home as Theatre Manager at Tyler Junior College. He works as a designer and production manager for the performing arts departments, and is so excited to be opening a newly renovated Performing Arts Center.