Our spotlight this month is our very own Mike Doran, past and present Technical Director. The Technical Director is more than essential to the production of any show on our stage.
Mike’s a homegrown boy from Twisp. Here’s what he has to say about how he got to where he is today:
Describe yourself — where you grew up, family, education, etc.
I was born and raised in Twisp. My parents are Dan and Chrissy Doran, and I’m the middle of three kids. My older brother is Ken and my younger sister Lisa Doran Marshall. I graduated from LBHS in ’93 and went on to join the Navy and train to become a hull technician aboard the USS Anzio. I served in the first Gulf War/ Operation Desert Storm and did a tour in the Mediterranean and Adriatic, traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East.
I started my first construction business after I left the Navy and moved to Seattle. I also was in several bands and started a recording studio with my bandmate Ira Wilks during that time. I built up most of the skills that inform my work at The Merc by learning audio engineering with that early recording work.
While looking for a new project, I answered an ad for a drummer in The Stranger magazine and joined a band that led to me meeting my wife, Emily McDonald, and we were married in 2005. I attended Shoreline Community College, studying computer networking and repair, which helped with the early digital recording days where computers and recording gear never played well together. Emily and I bought our first house and welcomed our first son Evan in 2008. In 2009, my father Dan was building a house and asked if I could come help him with the construction. We arrived in the valley thinking we’d only stay for a year or so. We have now been here 13 years and have added another son to the family, Nathan in 2013. Currently, I’m working as Interim Technical Director at the Merc, in addition to running a tiling business.
Tell about how you got involved in The Merc. What responsibilities did you have? What responsibilities do you have now as an interim TD?
When we first moved back to the valley, Emily was a new mom staying home with Evan and wanted to reconnect with her theater roots. She emailed Julie Wenzel and volunteered at the Merc, sewing costumes with Lisa for Robin Hood and then eventually auditioning for shows. Soon she became a board member and was part of the Capital Campaign to purchase the building from Egon and Carolanne Steinebach. Upon Egon’s retirement from tech duties, The Merc was looking for a new technical director. Based on my prior credentials and education, Emily offered up my name as a prospective candidate. I was eventually brought on as an employee and after a few years, I left The Merc to build another house and pursue electrical training. I recently came back as an interim technical director in addition to my other gig– installing tile, and playing drums in my band Black Pine, with Andrew Tuller, Bill Bartel and Nick Sabalewski.
My duties were and are to program lights and sound for Merc productions and rentals. I work closely with directors to build light and sound scenes. A big part of my job is directing strikes, which include the final breakdown and reset after a show. I also keep the gear working properly, research, and advise in purchasing gear as needed and report to the board of directors monthly.
Can you think of a particular memory of working as the TD in the past? Something surprising? Funny?
From a tech perspective, my favorite show to help create lights and sounds was Venus in Fur. It was a very technically flashy and light-effect heavy show. So, I was at the Merc finishing up some stuff, and I had to run and grab something from the office. I walked in, as I normally would, and our ED Missi was standing there in head-to-toe lingerie. Red-faced, I bolted out of the office, apologizing profusely to her for walking in on her while she was changing into her costume when she stopped me, laughed, and told me, this IS the costume.
To this day I’m never shocked by what I see around a corner at The Merc. It could be a dragon, it could be Mr. Peanut, or it could be your boss in lingerie. You just never know with theater.
In general, why do you think live theater is important in a small community like the Methow Valley?
Theater brings people together to share stories, experiences and culture. It provides creative outlets for people in rural places and gives them a real connectivity to the community. As a drummer, I’ve always enjoyed making music and being with a group of creative people and performing. There is so much talent in the Methow, with so many great bands and shows happening all the time, and that’s how it’s always been out here. In the valley, we all come together to entertain each other when the weather gets cold and the snow gets deep. Without the performing arts, cabin fever can take hold, and if you’re not into outdoor winter activities, The Merc provides something completely different to do instead.