By Ron Smith
This month the Off Broadway Players introduce to you another of the behind-the-scenes volunteers who help bring to the stage the plays that our community enjoys. Meet Dwayne Runion, a Broadway native and 1980 graduate of Broadway High School, during which time he also was a drafting student at MTC. Following graduation, Dwayne entered the field of commercial electrical contracting as an estimator, project manager, and draftsman. His work experience includes ten years as a draftsman at Broadway Metal Works.
Since the early days of the (formerly Schultz Theatre) Off Broadway Players, Dwayne has brought his experience, talent, and creative ideas to the technical aspects of play production. The mechanical, electrical and drafting skills he honed in the industrial setting have transferred nicely to the work in our community theater. Need some wiring for a scene? Have a light fixture that won’t light? Is a dimmer pack going wonky? No fear: Dwayne is here! Whether in pre-planning a show or in a dire last-minute dilemma in dress rehearsal, every OBP director knows that Dwayne is our reliable tech fix-it guy, ready to come to the rescue at a moment’s notice.
Dwayne and his son Christopher Runion work as a team in the mechanical and electrical components of play production. Dwayne says, “We take other people’s ideas, I build it, and Christopher runs it.” Along the way, both men have had some unusual and sometimes humorous challenges arising from unexpected events.
For example, Dwayne remembers in the musical Leader of the Pack one of the scenes required the use of a fog machine. After setting up the machine and initiating a test run, the production team discussed how long a burst of “stage fog” was required to give a realistic effect and yet dissipate quickly. Dwayne thought a two second burst would be enough, but another member of the production team thought ten seconds would be better. So, with a ten second fog machine “Whoosh,” the stage, as well as part of the auditorium, quickly and completely filled with fog. No one could see a thing. Finally, a good five minutes later, the fog cleared. Dwayne was right and the special effects in the scene went on without a hitch each performance, with only a two second fog burst.
Since the theatre company’s move from New Market to the J.F. Hillyard Middle School stage, Dwayne has improved the school’s lighting system to benefit both the school and the OBP. The result has been extremely helpful to both groups in the partnership between school and community. Because of the pandemic restrictions, in 2021 the OBP staged two shows in the Broadway Fire Hall. Dwayne and Christopher carried in the theater’s lighting system, including wiring, light fixtures, and control panel, hung the lights from the fire hall ceiling, and set and focused them for the two shows to insure that both shows were as adequately lighted as possible. Following the close of each show, these two men then had to disassemble everything and move all the equipment from the fire hall back into storage.
Dwayne’s latest project has been to design the interior of the old Broadway Elementary School into a new home for the Off Broadway Players. Once the Town of Broadway purchased the building and decided to transform the second floor into a multi-purpose theater, Dwayne did not hesitate to get to work. With input from the OBP Board of Directors, as well as consultations with Christopher, JW Fiske, Kyle O’Brien, and Dale Cupp, Dwayne designed a unique, exciting, state-of-the art facility that will serve well the needs of our whole community in a new multi-purpose theater that will be a centerpiece in Broadway.
About this new project Dwayne says, “It’s not so much a theater, but it is also an historical building. We are giving the building a new life for all to enjoy. It will no longer be a warehouse or just another eye sore. I hope the theater thrives with not only shows but possibly movies and other presentations throughout the year.”
An important quality that Dwayne brings to all his work is a vision of what is possible; this kind of dreaming and planning excites him and gives life to his theatre projects. He remembers a discussion he and I had about a new theatre some time ago: “I guess the biggest satisfaction is knowing that you came to me with just an idea, even before the building was purchased by the town. That little spark of ‘How would you design a theater in this building?’ will now hopefully become a reality based upon my design ideas.”
To which we all gratefully add, ”It will, Dwayne, It will.”