Yankton man videos theater productionsYANKTON — Many years from now, when people look back on the history of the Dakota Theatre in Yankton, they will want to know what happened on stage. Thanks to Steve Haddican, all they’ll have to do is watch the video.
By: DEREK BARTOS, Yankton Press & Dakotan
YANKTON — Many years from now, when people look back on the history of the Dakota Theatre in Yankton, they will want to know what happened on stage.
Thanks to Steve Haddican, all they’ll have to do is watch the video.
Haddican has been recording every play enacted in the theatre for the past five years to preserve a record of the performances.
“With every theatre, especially in small towns, there’s so much talent that comes out of the high schools and moves on, and when these people make it big, small towns need to have a record so they can say, ‘We knew these people when they were young,’” said Haddican, who also serves as the Lewis and Clark Theatre Company board president. “Or, let’s say they come back when they are 60 years old to see what they looked like when they were a kid and they performed at that theatre. There’s a record of that.”
He said the recordings serve many other purposes, as well. Performers can use parts of the shows for demo tapes, and agents can review the shows for scouting purposes.
Choreographers will also use the videos for ideas for future shows.
“There are a lot of things that are useful all the way around,” he said.
Haddican first began recording shows for the Dakota Theatre approximately five years ago when he arrived in South Dakota from California.
Looking for different avenues to incorporate his services, the owner of S&K Video in Yankton approached the theatre, which up until then had no way to document its shows.
“All they had was this itty bitty camera, and when you have a camera that (isn’t a professional camera), when you turn it on in a black theatre with a bright stage, everything up there is a ghost. People have no faces, and it’s just blobs moving around,” Haddican said. “So I brought in my equipment and did the lighting the way it should be, and when you watch it, you can actually see everything the way it should be — with colors and flesh tones. They were very pleased with that and wanted to make sure I would continue to do it. And I said, ‘Sure. It’s a service to the community.’”
Since then, Haddican has recorded one performance of every play (excluding personal shows) at the theatre. DV cameras are used to film the shows, which are edited digitally and then stored in DVD format in the archives at the theatre, where they are accessible to the public but not for sale.
“We interview people before and after the show, and we film with two cameras and then we mix that together, and it comes out to be a pretty good product when it’s finished,” he said.
Haddican said what he enjoys most about filming the shows is the challenge of creating the best product possible.
“When you’re doing this, you’re already thinking ahead. I’m already editing a show before I film it,” he said. “So I know what I want to look for in the camera angles, I always watch the show first to get an idea of where the entries are during the show, what to expect for lighting change, and if there’s any special effects they do like smoke machines or fog machines. I like the challenge of seeing that and putting it all together.”
Haddican said it’s also interesting to monitor the reactions of the performers when they watch their own work.
“When it’s done, they watch it and you get to see how excited they get and they’re surprised because they thought they did a terrible job, and it actually looks pretty good,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Having served the theatre for several years, Haddican said he has witnessed several memorable moments, but one in particular stands out as the most dramatic.
“During ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,’ there was a scene in the second act where they all huddled together in the center to go through a particular sequence, and there’s a trap door in the center of the stage that has hydraulics to go up and down. The whole thing broke, and about six to eight people went down under stage, landing on top of each other,” he said.
“Somebody questioned if they should stop the show, and the orchestra stopped for a little bit. (But) then they started playing again, and people actually started crawling out from under the stage in character. There were maybe a couple of scrapes and bruises, but nobody was hurt, and they just kept right on going and finished the show. They got one of the biggest standing ovations I’d ever seen.”
Along with recording play performances, Haddican also offers additional services to the theatre, such as operating the sound system during shows. He also installed the theatre’s current sound system that features a hearing-impaired system for the elderly.
“We’re constantly striving to improve the services there, whether it be videotaping for archives or the sound system for helping people hear, as well as new lighting and upgrades to the theatre,” he said.
While much of Haddican’s work is volunteer, he said the perks of the job make it well worth it.
“I do get popcorn,” he said with a laugh. “And I get to watch every show, and that’s a plus, too.”