Don Smith-Weiss from Nashua is the barricade designer for Les Misérables. He states he “wanted the chance to be a part of something this big, this moving---and a vision of the barricade opening up like a flower as Will (the Director) presented his set design at an early production meeting” really compelled him to be work on this show.
Don feels the best part of working on a show is the collaboration, “as much as I enjoy being in complete control of a project, I love bouncing ideas off others and making something better and richer through the extra input. And I always say that we in theater get to create magic, which most people never get a chance to do.”
Don has been in a couple of Actorsingers shows and designed sets for two. He has also acted and/or designed sets for The Nauss Hall Players in Nashua, the Palace Theater, The Majestic Theater and other groups. Don thinks back to 26 years ago, “I agreed to design the sets for Fiddler for the Portland Players in Maine shortly after we'd moved back to the Nashua area. We had no email then. I mailed a big packet of drawings and then never heard anything, so I didn't know if they'd even used my designs. But when we went to the show a couple of months later, there was my whole design onstage, right down to the colors of my illustrations!”
Don finds the most challenging part of bringing his craft to life for this show was time and people. “There are a lot more people willing to act and sing than those who build, and assembling the components of a set is always a challenge because there are so few of us, and real life and work intrude on our time.”
The hard work has paid off as “the barricade has to look cool and impenetrable, yet each half has to fit in a space 4' x 8' x 6' until it opens up. Storing a 23' wide barricade in 16' was a challenge.” “The first time the "students" climbed to the top, I realized I had to add upstage panels, or they'd be out there in the open shooting at the soldiers! “ Don goes on to say “the cast may not realize this, but it's easier and more fun to work on the set when the sound of rehearsal filters down through the floor to the scene shop. We do the sets for them, and it's a real-time reminder of what we're working towards.” “I love how so many people have worked separately on their own parts of the production without knowing how it all fits together. Parts of the set have built been by different teams--even in separate workshops--with the builders never knowing how the pieces go together till move-in weekend. Same with the other visual elements---video, props and set pieces---none of them put together until tech week.”
Don’s earliest theatre memory was being in a production of Chicken Little in the second grade. “I remember thinking that I could've done a much better job on Chicken Little's costume.”
While Don isn’t busy acting/building and designing sets, he writes songs, plays guitar and piano, and cooks. Right now he’s renovating his 1950 house to look like it was built in 1750…after which he'll return full time to designing kitchens and drawing his online comic strip (which is currently on hiatus) at www.qlowntown.com.