When it comes to theater, most of us think about the actors or the singers or the dancers on stage. However, all the people behind the scenes are so very integral to getting any show’s production off the ground.
Such is the case with Jason Olson who is the technical director at Flowertown Players. He is also the Executive Director of 5th Wall Productions. He is a native of Weymouth, Massachusetts, but has lived in Charleston since 2012.
Regan: Jason, how did you get started in the theater? Was it initially through acting?
O: My hometown of Weymouth, Massachusetts, is the birthplace of Abigail Adams — wife and advisor of John Adams, our second president. One of my middle school teachers put on a play about their lifetime correspondence, and I was recruited to play young John.
I have been hooked on theater ever since.
R: Where did you learn how to be a Technical Director? What are the key skills needed to be a good “behind-the-scenes” person?
O: I have worked in the theater scene for almost 30 years and have had several fantastic mentors and some great opportunities to learn.
A big part of theater is about learning from each other.
There are always opportunities to volunteer, so the key is having a willingness to try new things and in getting involved whenever you can.
R: How long have you been at Flowertown Players & how many productions have you been Technical Director for?
O: I moved to Summerville in the spring of 2012, and the first thing I did was to stop by Flowertown Players to see how I could get involved.
By the end of the week, I was volunteering as an usher. Soon I was directing, acting, and designing sets.
I spent a long time as a volunteer scene shop steward. I even had a chance to put my writing skills to work with an adaptation of The Three Musketeers in 2014.
I stepped away after co-founding 5th Wall Productions and came back last spring to tech direct the Disney musical “Frozen, Jr.,” directed by Jenny Aubrey.
Since the pandemic hit, we have been doing some limited audience and streaming shows, and we hope to have some more safe content heading your way soon.
R: Tell us about 5th Wall Productions?
O: The 5th Wall co-founders actually met during a show at Flowertown Players, as we discovered that we shared a common interest in producing contemporary and challenging plays.
We have become an advocate for local and emerging playwrights.
We’ve accepted thousands of submissions for our staged reading program and produced at least two new plays each year until last spring.
Since we typically perform in smaller, more intimate settings, we decided to hold off on live productions until the pandemic is under control.
We have some plays we are currently developing digitally and hope to be putting something up in the fall. You can learn more at www.5thwallproductions.org.
R: What is coming up for you, or are most of your compatriots waiting for COVID-19 to pass? Many events are virtual?
O: Ask anyone in the arts (or really anywhere else) and they will tell you that they can’t wait for COVID-19 to be over.
Theater, by design, is such an intense in-person experience. Streaming is great for development (and better than nothing) but it is a world away from a live experience.
We will continue to provide streaming content until vaccines are readily available and the community feels safe to gather in groups again.
I think the theater community and audiences are looking for things to start coming back in the fall.
Until then, we keep busy however we can, and we hope.