Set the stage for great experiences

Fri, May 6 2016


Alumnus. Technical director. Dramatic problem solver.

It’s a feeling that gets Clayton Rodney every single time. The force of a single voice—one that could easily drown out a grand piano—hitting him square in the chest.

“The music goes right through you and there’s just nothing else like it,” he says. “Until I saw Cavalleria rusticana, during my second year in the Theatre Production program at MacEwan University, I thought opera consisted of people in Viking costumes who parked themselves in the middle of the stage and sang. But it’s actually not like that at all.”

“ When a show feels complete—like a full package that sits out on the stage—those are the moments I live for.” 

He should know. As production and technical director for Edmonton Opera, Clayton has been setting the stage for epic performances 11 years running.

“In opera, everything is big and dramatic,” he says. That includes the storylines, the sets, the lighting, the costumes—and the backstage problems.

“One of my favourite lines is ‘Save the drama for your mama,’” laughs Clayton, who also teaches drafting in the Theatre Production program. “Working in theatre is all about dealing with crises, being able to handle changing situations and staying calm. If you apply to become an air traffic controller, the application asks if you have theatrical experience—and there’s a good reason for that.”

When performers take to the stage on opening night, it’s the culmination of months, and sometimes years, of planning, work and problem solving. But seeing the curtain open for the first performance in a show’s run isn’t the moment that gets Clayton revved up about his work. The most rewarding moments, he says, come before patrons ever take their seats—the day when semi-trailers filled with sets, costumes and props back into the loading dock at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

“When we start hanging the sets and assembling the opera on stage, and someone asks, ‘What are you going to do about that?’ and I’ve already got a solution figured out and under control,” says Clayton, “That’s when this work is the most satisfying.”

When Clayton folds down his seat at the Jubilee for dress rehearsal, looks at the stage and has nothing to say, he knows he’s done his job well.

“If I can sit in the house looking at things from our patrons’ point of view, and not nitpick. When we’ve created the whole back end of a show completely from scratch and I can’t say, ‘I should have saved money here,’ or ‘We should have built something else instead.’ When a show feels complete—like a full package that sits out on the stage—those are the moments I live for.”

Clayton Rodney is an alumnus of the Theatre Production program. Find out more at