Meet Some of Our
Working Alumni:
Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith in Arsenic
In June 2013, Jeff Smith (right) played Mortimer in the Black Hills Community Theatre
production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Thanks to my GPS unit I was able to easily find the Firehouse Brewing Company on Main Street in Rapid City, SD,
where alum Jeffrey Allan Smith was appearing as Sen. Phipp in a production of Urinetown.  I had been surprised
to see 4-5 billboards accompanied by old fire engines along I-90 as I approached Rapid City, all advertising the Firehouse
Brewing Company. The performance would be taking place in the building's upper level, above the bar/restaurant.  
This told me the show would not be lacking for ambiance.

I arrived downtown a bit early, as I like to do, and found some on-street parking just a couple of blocks from the firehouse.
That part of downtown is quaint, an easy mix of historical buildings and modern, well-thought-out amenities.  On
street corners, for example, were bronze statues of each of the former Presidents of the United States, each in an engaging
pose either seated or standing.  I learned later that there are also two Native Americans featured.  Businesses are a mix of
everything from banks and hospitals to more artsy places like cafes and restaurants.  The Firehouse itself features a covered
eating area between it and the Firehouse store, which on this Friday night was bustling with activity, accompanied by folks
standing on the sidewalk out front waiting for a place to open up.  The main floor of the Firehouse itself was primarily a bar
area with tables encircling it; it maintains the feel of a working firehouse, but with charm.  

Out front is a sign that directs you upstairs for the theatre, although the door there is locked.  I happened to see the director, Randy,
coming out and asked him about getting to the theatre.  He was prominently wearing an Actors Equity button that he told me
later he'd just gotten in the mail in place of the standard paper membership card that comes every six months.  He told me I needed
to go in the bar and to this side to get upstairs, which i happily did.  We chatted at the bar with Jeff before the show—with limited space,
the actors get dressed and are virtually forced to mingle with the audience for lack of anywhere else to be.  After giving me the tidbit
about Native American statues I told him I'm from the town infamously known for the largest mass execution in U.S. history.  He
surprised me with details about what he still referred to as the "Dakota Uprising," including the quote from the agency official
who said of the Natives, "Let them eat grass," and the number executed.  It was quite impressive!

Jeff told me that each of actors, which numbered about a dozen, gets paid the same: $40 per performance.  Performances are only
Friday and Saturday nights, but run all summer.  The audience on the night I was there couldn't have been to much more than
40-50, with bar service the only other form of revenue for the company.  Most people seemed to have someone they knew in the cast.  
Talent levels varied from the top-notch musical theatre performers to the less-experienced who seemed to take any laughs they got
from the crowd as an indication that they should mug and over-act even more.  This is a fact that Jeff said was known among the
more experienced cast members.  The stage was also cramped but used pretty effectively, with a few larger set pieces enhanced
by appropriate props.

After trying his luck in Seattle, Jeff returned to his hometown in January, 2013, and has had some success.  He has had leads in
Arsenic and Old Lace and Wait Until Dark, playing Mortimer and Harry Roat, respectively, which is a nice variety. Jeff
has found work at a graphics design firm while living back home with this parents.  The design work doesn't fully utilize the skills
of his graphics design degree, he said, though there are chances that he will be able to tap into his web design experience to expand
his role.  Although the job is a bit tedious, he said the options for theatre in Rapid City, and the support from the community,
is working well so far.

View a video interview with Jeff here.

The Medora Musical 2013: Technicians Matt Gilbertson & Dana Kleiman,
performers Emily Walter and Lauren Mikeal Weber

• Guthrie Theater regular Jim Lichtscheidl

• Bismarck, ND, teacher/director Erin Drevlow

• Globe-trotting activist Chris Bell

• Minnesota State Moorhead chair Craig Ellingson

• Our man on the road, Corey Krolikowski

• Taking the stage by storm, Jacleen Olson

• Recognize the voice over? That's Brent Teclaw

Eriq Nelson is The Dude

• Theatre technicians Allen Weeks and Mick Coughlan said.

 


Mike Lagerquist, August 2013
If you have questions or comments,
click on Mike's name above.