The man behind the scenes

Tony Petzold spends long hours in the scene shop, creating and building sets for college drama productions.Tony Petzold

Whenever Centralia College’s Corbet and Wickstrom Theaters open their doors, Tony Petzold is there. Although the audience may never see him on stage, Tony’s technical skills and craftsmanship shine during every drama production and concert in Washington Hall. He’s the man working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure each performance runs like magic.

As Centralia College’s technical director, Tony manages everything from stage lighting and sound to set design and construction.

“I do everything backstage…including mopping the floor,” he said.

Tony works closely with Drama Professor Brian Tyrrell to develop and design sets that uniquely fit each college drama production. In addition, he provides technical assistance for all college concerts, lyceum lectures, staff meetings, and community events like the Nutcracker, dance recitals, high school plays, Lewis County concerts, town hall meetings, and even weddings and funerals!

Working primarily as a one-man crew, Tony often puts in long hours “doing whatever it takes to make events happen.” This coming year, he expects around 60 separate “door opening” events at Corbet, not including multiple performance days or extra days for rehearsals. He will be there every single one of those days.

Candy Lunke, Centralia College’s former events coordinator, worked closely with Tony on many occasions.

“Regardless of the type of event I was working on, Tony was the first person I would call to check on availability of the venue. Tony would be the first person to unlock the facility and open the theatre. He assisted with loading equipment, conducting sound checks, setting up of the venue, providing  lights and sound during the event, and then was the last person to leave and lock up the facility,” Lunke shared.

As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, Tony also teaches college classes to those wishing to learn backstage skills. Over his past 14 years at Centralia College, he has taught stagecraft and lighting for both theater and television, Drama 100 in the scene shop, and set design for theater. And when there weren’t enough students to form a class, he has offered an independent study option.

“I like academic theater—passing along that knowledge to the next generation coming up,” admits Tony, who enjoys watching students take that abstract technical information and apply it on stage in a creative performance. “It’s quite exciting.”

Tony works hard to involve students as much as he can, giving them opportunities to use the basic stagecraft skills they have learned in class to help him build sets. However, the more complicated technical aspects, such as programming and running the light board for performances, are often left to Petzold alone.

“There’s no one else in town who knows how to program the light board,” he admits. This is one of his concerns should he ever become sick or unable to work. One of his goals is to train students and interested community members to do some of more technical skills for this very reason.

Tony has a long history working in theater.

“I’ve been in and around theater since I was in third grade,” he said.

After graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in puppetry, he spent four years in the Army working for the chaplain in Germany, where he gained valuable experience setting up for various events.

He later taught vocational and technical theater classes in the Kent School District, worked for the Village Theater in Issaquah, and taught at Mercer Island High School.

Tony came to Centralia College 14 years ago, just weeks before Washington Hall officially opened, and he is still here today—very much at home building and creating in his shop behind the scenes.

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