Good morning again, TheatrePeople!
Today I am genuinely thrilled to introduce you to a dear friend of mine in theatre, Rob Forbes. I first met Rob years ago when he reached out to me to design digital projections for a show he was piloting in Canada, Tails of Hamelin.
Rob is one of those theatrical wizards you live to work with—funny, smart, and full of creative ideas that make his shows truly sparkle. A couple years ago, when attending a theatre conference in Denver, I was amazed when Rob and his wonderful band of Canadian theatrical sidekicks, suddenly showed up at my booth. It's hard to explain the joy I felt, although it suffices to say it was like dear family I hadn't seen in years—though I was meeting many of them truly for the first time. It really is a small world in theatre.
I am so excited for you to get to meet Rob a little through this interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
I went to see Chorus Line on Broadway in the early 1980s, for the second time, and took a couple of my friends with me. One had never been inside a theatre before and so this was an exciting experience for him. Something in that show - one of the characters and their stories really touched him deeply and he spent the next several hours crying. Seeing how he had been affected by the performance and the storytelling, really touched my heart and I was so pleased to have been able to open that door for him. Chorus Line, and its stories of the struggle of the actors truly brought to life has always left me in awe. I have seen this show performed numerous times and have always left feeling amazed, inspired, energized.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
I was pleased to have been the producer and set/sound designer for Matilda the Musical. This was a very technical show with a bazillion moving parts to make all the stage magic happen. We were working with pre-recorded backing tracks that I had broken apart to give us all the vamps and cues that were in the score. We built an 8’ high rear projection unit for some of the chalkboard magic. The dancing, the lights, the singing, all the pieces. There were so many.
And in each rehearsal and in each earlier performance, there was always some point of failure. But on the last Sunday matinee show, everything gelled. It was a masterpiece and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I was particularly pleased when some of our patrons favourably compared what we had done with the London production. Of course, I had to agree having seen that show only a few months earlier. Our actors shined like the diamonds that they were. It was truly magical, and breathtaking. Like our technicians jokingly say…it’ll be perfect on Monday— but this time it was perfect on the closing Sunday.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
While stage-managing a production, one of the actors delivered a line from later in the scene, and everyone continued to go with it from there. We had skipped over an entire production number! So, there I was: trying to find out where we were in the play now, flipping the script like mad, and trying to figure out how to bring the production number back in. Following the script where they were, I finally saw my opportunity. Everyone carried on from where they were, but at a judicious moment, I started the music and the cast just picked up where they were supposed to be and performed the song and dance as though that was always the case. The audience didn’t (or shouldn’t have) noticed a thing (which at the end of the day is the objective, isn’t it?)
Why do you love theatre?
It’s an escape into a different world. It’s a trigger to the imagination. It’s just pure joy. It’s thought provoking. It’s an assault on the senses. It’s a technical marvel. It’s a costume delight. It’s many things to every person. To me, ultimately, it’s the telling of a story in such a way that you become part of it, surrounded by it.
Theatre is for...
Reading stimulates the imagination and transports you into another world, another time, another place. Watching a movie or a TV show is also good, but you are limited to the camera angle and perspective the director has, and of course things can get really wild with the aid of computer graphics and the like. The suspension of disbelief is somehow less difficult with movies and TV because of it. But theatre combines the stimulation of one’s imagination through reading and the transportation of the mind into another time and place, but also fosters a greater suspension of disbelief. It’s a shared experience with others that makes it that much more special. Everyone has the same experience, but they experience it slightly differently. And you are not necessarily restricted to the director’s viewpoint. You can watch other actors, take in a set piece when actors are on stage, marvel at the realness of it all…because it is real. It is right in front of you and you could really go and touch it, just like the actors do. And this makes theatre special. And makes it special for the mind.
More Fantastic Theatre People
Gordon Greenberg, Writer and Director on Broadway
Anna Robb, International Stage Manager and TheatreArtLife Founder
Tara Lee, Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre Director and Choreographer
More about Rob
Rob Forbes is living in his third career. He is currently the co-owner and Managing Director of Mountain Dream Productions, a musical theatre school for youth and adults in Victoria, BC, Canada, where he has been working for the past five years. Prior to that, Rob was an executive for a software company in Toronto, Ontario, and he also retired as a Major in the Royal Canadian Air Force, working with youth for more than 20 years.
Rob is a published author, an award-winning photographer and musician, and a life-long lover of the arts. When he became involved with theatre teacher Margaret Watt, they formed Mountain Dream Productions to bring affordable high-quality theatre training to the region. Under their guidance the company has grown significantly over the past five years, and has put on as many as eight shows a year. The skills of the staff, constantly learning new things, have risen to make Mountain Dream amongst leaders of innovative theatre.
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