Ryan Smillie has had his time center stage. He acted and sang in just about every show at Verona High School before he graduated with the class of 2008. You may have seen him as the nefarious CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell in Urinetown.
Now Smillie’s running the show in a different sort of way. In between his sophomore and junior years at Harvard University, he is spending this summer producing shows for the Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theatre: Speech & Debate, The Real Thing and The Rocky Horror Show, which opens this weekend and runs through August 13. This fall, he will be working at Harvard’s Loeb Mainstage theater producing the Jean Genet play The Balcony, which will run for two weeks in November.
“I really like getting people organized and make sure the shows happen,” says Smillie, who is a social studies major and a theater minor. “There’s so much work that goes into it.”
Smillie’s budget for the Harvard shows is a bit larger than what he was accustomed to at VHS. He had $10,000 to spend on the boutique theater summer shows, and will have $8,000 for “The Balcony”, which will be performed in a theater that seats about 600 people. “We’re extremely lucky at Harvard to have a school that recognizes the importance of an arts organization,” he says. “Theater funding here is sizable compared to other schools.”
But Smillie is acutely aware that it is important to manage every nickel, particularly in the current difficult environment for the arts. “Not many people want to keep supporting the arts now,” he says. “My friends who are in theater in New York City say most of their job is trying to solicit donations to get a show off the ground. I wish there were some magic solution to make it easier because it is important to get some artistic expression out there.”
Until that happens, Smillie will have to continue to find ways to talk his theater colleagues out of expensive ideas for their shows. For “Speech & Debate”, that meant using paint to simulate a linoleum floor instead of buying the actual flooring. Not that he doesn’t appreciate the flourishes. To enhance the high school setting of “Speech & Debate”, Smillie and his co-producers sprang for Tater Tots, which the actors handed out to the audience. “I heard from many people that the smell really added to the experience,” Smillie says.
If you’re headed up to Massachusetts and want to get tickets for “Rocky Horror” or “The Balcony”, the Harvard box office is here.