When the curtains open for a show and the bright theatre lights illuminate the stage and its constructed set pieces at the Clayton Center for the Arts, it is all thanks to Alan Reihl.
Reihl has been the stagecraft teacher and technical director of MC’s theatre since 1989. He currently teaches stagecraft and theatre 204, which is a night class in which theatre students learn to construct set, costumes and lighting, as well as everything it takes in order to produce a successful play.
He is also the on-campus theatrical technician for the CCA. Whenever a new show comes in, he is there to make sure that it is set up smoothly. He recently did the lighting for the Broadway musical at the CCA, “In the Heights.”
With his 43 years of experience in technical theatre, Reihl has brought to Maryville an intensive curriculum for MC’s theatre students, as well hands-on assistance to any show or performance that is brought to the school.
He will be retiring in the Spring 2012 and is currently busy teaching his final course in stagecraft to MC theatre students. He is also working on organizing the scenic shop in the Clayton basement for the next technical theatre professor.
“I’m just due to retire,” he explained with a laugh. “I’m ready to not do so much at once, as you must always learn to do when working in theatre.”
A native of Hawaii, Reihl did not start his career in theatre until he returned from two years in the Peace Corps, which he joined after graduating from high school.
He went to college at the University of Hawaii for his bachelor’s degree and then moved on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his master’s in basic stagecraft.
He says he wanted to be a “hot-roder” growing up. Reihl said he knew that he “really had a mechanic core,” and that he always wanted to work technically.
“I found that out working on my ‘53 Ford convertible,” he said, reminiscently.
Some of his favorite theatrical experiences include working in Summerstock, an eight-week-long production of plays in New Hampshire. He worked summers there for eight years.
“We had to produce eight shows in eight weeks,” he explained. “I never stopped working, but that is where I really learned my trade … I had to build three sets for three different shows in two weeks once,” he shook his head at the memory. “I would be up all night working.”
He met his wife, Elaine, in Summerstock. She was working as the designated cook to feed all of the workers, including her future husband, who was working as master carpenter, stage manager, master electrician and filling in at every available position.
Currently, he is building a new house in Rockford for his family, which consists of Elaine and his sons, Ernest and Tony.
Reihl came to Maryville College to teach in 1989 looking for a more serious position after doing a myriad of technical jobs in the world of professional theatre.
“My favorite part about Maryville’s theatre is the interaction I have had with students that are interested in technical work,” he said. “My favorite part of teaching is the students are truly interested in this work.”
His favorite shows MC has produced during his tenure have been “Threepenny Opera,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Elektra” and “Oleanna.”
His last show to design at Maryville College Theatre will be the roller-disco musical “Xanadu,” which will be performed in Spring 2012.
“I’m most looking forward to designing the crazy disco lighting for this production,” he said excitedly. “It will be a challenge to design and create a setting that would make the audience feel as if they were in disco.”
Although the search for the new technical director has already begun, Reihl will be sorely missed after his retirement, both by MC’s theatre department, as well as the CCA.
However, he promises that he will still be around to “work out all the kinks.”