Long-time theater hand grabs award as most valuable volunteer
June 10, 2013 at 1:10 a.m.
Updated June 11, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.
Curtis Short is very valuable to Theatre Victoria.
He was voted on by his peers as being the most valuable volunteer for the 2012-13 Vicky awards.
The 42-year-old Victorian earned the recognition in May when the season ended and other volunteers chose him as the third recipient for the award.
When he won the award, he said it was an honor to be recognized.
"It's just something I really enjoy doing. It's a part of my life," he said.
If it weren't for the volunteers, the curtains might never rise, Theatre Victoria Executive Director Scott Mohon said.
For each production, he said there are anywhere from 10 to more than 100 volunteers coordinating with members of Theatre Victoria to put on a show. Volunteers will take their places on, behind or in front of the stage, tearing tickets, handling lights or taking the lead role.
The Vicky Awards were set up by members of Theatre Victoria 36 years ago to recognize the countless volunteers for their hard work.
"The awards change every year, but they're always fun, and some are traditional, like best set and best lighting," Mohon said. "But it's all done by the volunteers."
That means the volunteers are in charge of voting for and choosing the winners for the awards and were asked to write in who they think should be the most valuable volunteer of the season.
"It's a way of looking back on the year and having fun and laughing about it," said Theatre Victoria Technical Director Michael Teer.
He's been a long-time coordinator of the awards and said that the most valuable volunteer is one of the newest categories. According to the new category, volunteers who earn this title have proven to be instrumental to the season's success and can be an actor, a crew member or front-of-house helper.
Other recipients include Karen Locher and Paul Locher. Enter Short - stage left.
"It's something that I hope is appreciated by them (volunteers)," Teer said. "In a volunteer organization, it's good to know why they appreciate you."
For his hard work this past season, Short was awarded a little plastic trophy with a faux gold star clean of any engravings. But regardless of the size or the pizzazz, Short said the recognition was the most important thing to him.
"To be recognized for the award, it's more valuable, to me, because you have to actually take the time to select who you think it is, and so I really appreciate that," he said. "I voted for Mark and Jill Kurtz."
Short, who is a scientist for the agriculture and environmental research center at Formosa, stays busy with homework, trying to prepare for the next production, whether it's a drama or a musical. He spends his time listening to music and reading the script. He said he has to know the script just as well as the performers do so that he can stay on track with music and sound effects. A misplaced line may fumble up a sound man who isn't paying attention, but Short takes pride in knowing what he's doing.
"It does take a major time commitment for any volunteer to be involved with the theater. Because of that, it attracts lots of very dedicated people, and I enjoy working with them," he said.
Mohon said volunteers will work somewhere between three hours to more than 100 hours to put on a show. He's also watched as Short moved from being on stage to building sets and taking the helm behind the sound board during all the theater's productions.
"He's probably one of the best sound men I've ever worked with in my life," Mohon said.
Mohon said Short describes his work as not being just a soundman but like being one of the performers in the show.
"He really fine-tunes their performances with his nuances," Mohon said. "I never leave wanting it to be another way."
Teer, who is in charge of overseeing all the sets, lights and sound, had worked with Short since the beginning of his volunteering career in 1993 but said that he wasn't always in sound. He started on stage, helped build sets and eventually made his way to become the go-to sound man.
"He's really, really good at it," he said. "He does sound, and that's what he likes to do."
Short grew up in community theater under the guidance of his parents, Mickey and Gary Short. They brought him with them to volunteer wherever they were living at the time, he said. He has had opportunities to volunteer at community theaters in California, Indiana and Plano.
"It's just been so natural for me being in the theater that I never really decided to volunteer," he said.
Along the way, he met his wife, Jennifer, who was part of the cast, and now has two daughters who are also following in the footsteps that his parents forged. His girls - Amber, 10, and Michaela, 13 - have had their fair share of work on and behind the scenes, he said.
"Since I'm there, she (Michaela) wants to be with her dad, so she's there, too," he said. "We're trying to pass on that family tradition."
Teer even remembers a time when Amber believed that her dad worked at the theater because he was there so much.
But no matter how much work needs to be done before a show, Short and his family will be there to help draw the curtains and cue the lights.
"There are a lot of people who do a lot more than I do," he said. "It's nice to be recognized."