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Roy Ballard outlines his path from teenage actor to set-design star 

The Cut

click to enlarge COURTESY ROY BALLARD
  • Courtesy Roy Ballard

There are many reasons to get into theater — Roy Ballard, for instance, did it on a dare.

"I think I was a junior in high school, and a friend of mine dared me to audition for a play," he says. "I didn't know anything about it — I didn't know anything — but I wasn't going to turn down a dare." Ballard now manages the Osborne Studio Theatre and teaches technical theater, design and beginning acting at UCCS. But he hasn't forgotten his turn as Jeff in John Patrick's play The Curious Savage.

"It's an old play," he says. "It took place in a mental hospital, and I played this guy who kept his hand on the side of his face for the whole play... the character was trying to cover up a scar that wasn't actually there."

It was during his time at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City that he shifted into the more technical side of theater.

"While I was going to school there, I was also building scenery for them," he says. "I'd always built stuff. My dad had a shop, and I played around and broke all of his tools — you know, that kinda thing." He stuck with it after graduation. Building sets gave him more satisfaction, and besides, the pay was better. After freelancing for a few years, he landed a job as the technical director at the Jean Cocteau Repertory, which was known for its earnest productions of stage classics.

"What you do as a technical director is you take other people's scenic designs and you basically interpret them," he explains. "You turn them into working drawings and you build them."

Later, he worked as technical director for the New York Theatre Workshop, best known for being the origin of the award-studded musical RENT. Ballard and his then-wife and their child left New York shortly after Sept. 11.

"We decided we didn't want to be in New York City, because it was a little too stressful then," he says. He came to Colorado Springs to take a job with the Fine Arts Center, as its master carpenter.

"I was lucky that an opportunity presented itself, while I was at the Fine Arts Center, to start really designing," he says. He recalls a favorite design job at the FAC — The Last Night of Ballyhoo, staged in 2007.

"I loved Last Night of Ballyhoo, because it was just a very simple box set," he says. "It was just an interior set... But I designed so that one of the walls flips up, sort of like a reverse drawbridge, and this whole train car came out through the wall. It was really cool."

Since moving on from the Fine Arts Center, Ballard has also designed for Star Bar, Millibo Art Theatre, TheatreWorks, and others.

"I've built 30-foot bridges with no means of support," he says. "I've built giant, towering, multi-story sets that moved and spun, all these crazy things that make engineers cringe. But it's safe, and it's fun, and it looks beautiful."

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