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Insights from Peter Bell, Sr. Dir., Production Administration

I am not an introvert. That surprises many people who know how I have made a living for the last almost 30 years.  The last 19 of those years have been at Kentucky Performing Arts (nee The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts). They are surprised because I have spent those years behind the scenes, dressed in black and usually quiet. 


I am one of the seven members of the Kentucky Performing Arts (KPA) Production staff. We are the full-time production managers and technicians that operate the five primary stages and myriad of other rooms and locations where KPA makes arts and entertainment happen. 


Our skill sets are like the venues themselves: serviceable at everything, good at a lot of things, and excellent in our specialty. Some examples would be Noelle Shotwell, our Production Manager that handles Stage One Family Theatre, among other things. That theatre group spends most of its time in the Bomhard, which excels at theatre. Noelle’s background is as a theatrical lighting designer, but she and the Bomhard can both do many other things.


Personally, the variety of things that are presented on the KPA campus are one of the reasons I enjoy my job here. There is a comfort and consistency in the annual cycle: fall kick-offs, to Nutcracker and the Best Christmas Pageant Ever, into the spring season, Derby events, a little slower in the summer, and back to fall kick-off events. 


However, no two years here are ever the same. 


The last two years have been as different as I have ever seen. We acquired the Brown Theatre, built Old Forester’s Paristown Hall, and rebuilt the Center from a very significant roof fire.  You can never plan for two years like that. 


In the past, the Production Department has been asked to do other unusual tasks.  We do outdoor shows on the Jefferson Community and Technical College campus, the Belvedere, the front steps of the Center, and wherever else our Education and Community Arts Partners or Programming departments present shows.  


One year, we managed the entertainment for the Belle of Louisville Centennial Celebration on the Waterfront; one year we hung Divas Ascending, a collection of costumes by E.V. Day, in the lobby of the Center.  We also manage the care, feeding, installation, relocation, and restoration of the Center’s significant collection of art.  As I often say, “There is never a dull moment in show business, even if you are the one sweeping up after the elephants.”  And yes, I have done that, too.  A story for another time.


In future columns, I intend to share some of the historic, theatrical flotsam and jetsom of life backstage, particularly at Kentucky Performing Arts family of venues.  Because we all wear black, there will be very little fashion advice, other than to note that black is slimming, but tool belts are not.

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