Alumni Story 4: Alum fulfills dream with New York Job
by Jean Tyrell, special to the (Joliet) Herald News
Lori Peeples (SIUE ‘98) is seeing the glittering lights of Broadway in New York City, but not from the stage.
Peeples, 29, a native of Shorewood, Illinois, near Joliet, is a theater
technician, and she recently started a job in New York City working as an assistant production manager for a company that constructs stage sets for Broadway productions.
Currently, at Showman Fabrications, where she works, the company is
refurbishing the set for the the national touring company of “Oklahoma.” The company is also constructing the set for “Retreat from Moscow,” starring John Lithgow. Another project in process is the refurbishment of the set of the long-running “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” starring Ashley Judd and Jason Patrick in its current cast.
For Peeples this is a “dream job.”
“I didn’t know what to do as a college major.” Peeples had transfered to
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a junior softball player.
“I told Nancy Parker (now retired Emerita Associate Professor), my
athletic advisor, that I like to take things apart and put them together. So she suggested an elective course in stagecraft.”
“From the first day I fell in love with doing backstage work.”
Her interest spurred her to a degree in technical theater and design and
a minor in studio art from SIUE.
Because her line of work has taken her to several places throughout the
country, Peeples said, she had to make a decision where to direct her career.
“I have a bunch of friends who live in Los Angeles, where you can do decent theater, but probably will end up doing T.V. or movies. I could go to L.A., or I figured I could go to New York and really get my foot in the door.
“There’s that element of live theater you don’t get on T.V. or film.”
Her move to New York followed stints in theater production in Florida and in St. Louis. And it isn’t so surprising that she found familiar faces in the New York theater scene, because, she had a host of contacts from working the other jobs backstage around the country.
After college, she started her career as head audio mixer for the Disney
Cruise Lines. In this capacity she worked at a sound board mixing all the
sound from the actors’ microphones. That job was followed by one as a wireless microphone technician, for the Orlando Florida Shakespeare festival, where she said, among other things, she helped actors get their mics on. One part of that job is to “keep the sweat out of the microphones,” she said.
From there she worked for Busch Creative Services (now The Spark Agency), which was a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch, the beer brewing company. For Busch Creative, she worked as a production assistant making sure the Bud Light name and product were well represented.
For example, one of the big names she worked with was singer Tim McGraw.
At his concert series, which was sponsored by Bud Light, she and others made sure signage was in place and that the integrity of the Bud Light product was maintained. Their production crew helped develop and create 29-foot-tall inflatable beer cans that popped up on stage during his concert.
She also was able to travel to the 2002 Olympics in Park City, Utah and
worked setting up the VIP room where, in a Bud Light-sponsored tent, athletes came to get pictures taken after winning medals.
But in spite of these experiences in the entertainment-related business,
Peeples said, “’Artistically, I felt I was missing something, I wanted to do
something on Broadway. I decided I wanted to go (to New York) while I was free, without spouse or children, and I took a leap of faith, basically.”
So after a trial run in the spring, she moved to NYC about 2 months ago.
In spite of long hours, she usually works ten hours a day or more, she has gotten to see sites, including the Statue of Liberty and Central Park.
Her favorite part of all of her technical efforts are moments, the
audience never sees.
“I remember a specific moment when somebody forgot a line, some of it’s cheesy, some of it’s funny, but it’s a memory all of my own,” she said.
“Technicians and actors have this little rivalry thing,” she continued.
“Actors say they don’t like technicians, and technicians say they don’t need actors.”
So with this ongoing friendly skirmish, the technicians are always trying
to get the actors to flub up. “The actor has his back to the audience. We can see them and the audience can’t. Like the technicians stick things in a drawer, a picture, maybe something that’s inappropriate, or a little note. The idea is to break the actor up on stage.
“It’s something no one else gets to see,” said Peeples. “I enjoy the
interplay. It’s the equivalent of two athletes shoving each other on the field.
“It’s just a moment, but only those two athletes know what it’s all
Peeples is the youngest daughter of Terry and Patricia Peeples of the
Morris, Illinois. Her brother, Terry, performs and teaches percussion in the greater Joliet area, and brother Randy is an engineer technician.