Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Chris Caputo of Legacy Theatrical Design and the Rose Center Theater
Current Location: Mission Viejo, CA
Chris, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
My story as a performer started when I was a kid. Now, I was not a child actor but I did put on shows with my brothers for my parents- and anyone else we could wrangle in to watch us. But my start on stage began in high school. I was in the orchestra pit playing the bassoon for a production of The Music Man. I remember looking up and telling myself “I want to be up there, not down there.” So I walked away from my life as a “Bando” and joined drama and choir. Now, my journey as a theatrical designer started soon thereafter. I had just been cast as the lead in the school play and the drama teacher announced that we needed someone to design and build the set for the show. I looked around and saw that no one raised their hand. I thought to myself, “Well we can’t have a play without a set,” so I raised my hand. This started my double life as both an onstage performer and a backstage designer and technical director. In my senior year of high school I won Best Actor in a musical from the MACY awards, thus starting my relationship with that great organization. To this day, I technical direct their annual awards show.
Shortly after college, with my BA in Theater Arts in hand, and newly married, I realized that the life of an actor and designer was not going to pay the bills. So I buckled down by studying and passed the Certified Public Accountant, CPA exam, becoming a licensed CPA in California. Thus started my life as a CFO and Controller for multinational corporations. For you left-brain-right-brain enthusiasts, yes I took a 180 degree turn from the creative, entertainment world. For many years my life was kids, big business, and finance, with a little bit of theater sprinkled in. But as fate would have it, about 18 years ago life came full circle. Opportunities in theater started to open up for me both on and off the stage. I started performing again and became the Theater Manager, Designer, and Technical Theater Teacher for Mission Viejo High School. This soon led to my becoming the Technical Director and Resident Designer for the Rose Center Theater, a job I still have today. Also at the Rose Center, I am able to perform several times a year. A few years later, I found myself single again and rediscovering who I was. It was through performing iconic roles like Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and Emile DeBeque in South Pacific, that I found who I was, but more importantly the person I wanted to be. In 2018, I was honored to receive the Best Actor in a Musical for my performance of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Four years ago, I started Legacy Theatrical Design, a design, technical, and scenic rental company. Through Legacy, I have been able to design and create for theaters all over Southern California. Over the past several years I have designed and, or performed in over 130 shows. Yes, life has been busy, but I am busy doing what I love.
Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?
Currently in the world of Covid, theater and entertainment has been shut down. As the world fights this virus, we in the entertainment world need to look and prepare for a life after Covid. So besides spending lots of my free time playing tennis, which I love, I have been looking to better myself and learn new skills through taking online courses in digital painting. Back when I was in college, we would hand paint everything we created including renderings and painted backdrops. In our digital world, the new “hand painting” is done on a tablet and in Photoshop with a stylus. Projections and videos are the fastest growing innovation in scenic design. Over the past few months I have been creating digital backdrops to be used in future shows.
The road of the artist is a sometimes long and bumpy road. Have you had to overcome any on your journey?
The truth is, LIFE is an obstacle, presenting us with obstacles and challenges both big and small. Obstacles can stop us dead in our tracks so we never move forward. They can also challenge us to find a way past. What is most important is not the obstacles, but how we deal with them. For those of you who are involved in theater, you know that every show has its own set of obstacles and challenges. The script says, “…and she flies in” presenting the challenge of doing that within the constraints we are given. Now, theater people are creative thinkers, so our minds race through different ways to meet the challenge. I have been involved in performing and designing for most of my life, and I know that through creative thinking and problem solving anything is possible. I keep this philosophy with me always. So has the road been smooth? No, but I know I can find my way forward.
Are there any lessons that you've learned along your journey so far? Something that you'd want to tell your younger self?
To ask what lessons you have learned, and what you would tell your younger self, is akin to asking, if you had your life to live over again, would you? Unfortunately, or fortunately, the lessons we have learned are what have forged us into the person we are today. So to change the past would be saying, “Would I be the person I am today?” But if I could give advice to those who are younger than I, I would tell them to seize the moment. I am not saying to shrug your responsibilities, but to take the time and experience life. Don’t bog your life down with meaningless things, and don’t allow those that will weigh you down to sink you. Let them go and move on.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
This might sound crazy but, the best advice I have ever been given is from one of my accounting professors. Accounting, right! The most by-the-book, straight-laced profession alive. The first day of class the professor held up our accounting text book and said, “You see this book? I don’t want you to believe a word in it.” Of course we all thought - “what??” But he went on to explain that there were many errors contained in this text book despite the editor’s best efforts to proofread the book. But his point was even broader than that. He went on to explain that we should never just accept things at face value and should question everything. That has stayed with me my entire life, and to this day, I do just that. I question and research both sides of every argument and from that I discern the truth.
What inspires you? Can you tell us about a moment in your life you found to be inspirational?
Music has always been a big part of my life and for a period I was the Music Director for my church. An unfortunate part of my job was singing at funerals. I could sing at as many as four funerals a week. Some funerals were sad and somber, and others were a more joyous celebration of life. But the most enlightening part of each funeral were the family and friends that spoke about the person that had died. I found their words inspiring and profound. You never heard a word about how rich or poor someone was, how many cars they owned, or the size of their house. Out of a lifetime of knowing this person, the words they chose always revolved around a personal moment they shared with that person. I heard many, many stories, and it inspired a life philosophy for me. The most important parts in life are not the treasures and material things we acquire, but rather the moments we spend together. So turn off the TV and put down the iPhone, and interact, not internet, with those around you. That is what matters most.
What do you consider your proudest moment?
My Proudest moment? Wow, this is hard because I am lucky that I have had many proud moments. As an actor, I could choose the most favorite role I have performed. As a designer, my favorite design. Where do I start? Realizing that moments are a span of unit-less time, I would have to choose the last 4 years as one long moment. It’s during this time that I have been able to perform most of my most favorite roles, Don Quixote, Sweeney Todd, Henry Higgins, and Emile DeBeque, to name a few. I started my company Legacy Theatrical Design and have produced, what I feel, is some of my best work. During the last 4 years I had the privilege to design, act, and create over 130 shows. These past few years have been incredible and filled with the proudest moments of my career.
The mission of The Rose is to make the arts accessible in the community. What purpose do you think the arts or artists play in today's society?
The role of the Arts and artists are part of a bigger picture I refer to as “creativity.” It is creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and imagination that have been in the forefront of each of mankind’s advancements. There would be no wheel if someone did not imagine and create one. The means to inspire the forward movement of mankind is through the Arts, being an artist, or creating artwork for others to experience. The most important things we should be teaching in school and in life is creative thinking. Through promoting artistic endeavors, and expanding both participation in and experiencing the Arts, we create a healthier society.
What are your hopes for the future of the arts?
If I could guide a future for the arts, I would seek a more experience-driven format. I see many people engrossed in their “screens,” watching who knows what. We should be experiencing art, human-to-human. The person seeing the strokes of the painter, the audience feeling the pain of the performer, or being enveloped in the creation of a visual artist is what connects us. Our technology is great but I feel we have become disconnected from each other. It is time we reconnect, and the arts are a beautiful way to achieve it.
Personal Facebook: facebook.com/chris.caputo.7146
Legacy Theatrical Design Facebook: facebook.com/legacytheatricaldesign
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