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A cog in the machine: Faller brings it all together
Faller in the rafters
Robert Faller, Averitt Center for the Arts technical director and production manager, works on the lights in the rafters of the Emma Kelly Theater.

When Robert Faller was a kid his dad rarely ever called a handyman to help with repairs around the house.

“If something needed to be fixed, my dad took care of it, which meant I was right there by his side the whole time, whether it was holding a flashlight while we crawled under the house running wires, up on a roof checking the gutters, or simply running back and forth from the garage to the ladder he was on, passing him up tools,” he said. 

Consequently, Faller was on board with the notion of working in a scene shop during college while he attended Georgia Southern University, where he was working on a degree in Justice Studies. The class, taught by local theater legend and retired GSU professor Mical Whitaker, was one in theater appreciation.

“I found myself at home there,” Faller said. “Once a member of the scene shop, I began to study and learn technical theater from Gary Dartt, and later from Kelly Berry. Also while working for the Theatre department, I had the privilege of working with and learning from Pete Davis, who at that time, was the technical director for the Performing Arts Center on campus.”

The 12-hour requirement turned into a paying job the very next semester. 

In 2004, Faller wanted to continue studying technical theater, and he often helped to load in and work shows at the Averitt Center for the Arts as a stagehand or spotlight operator. He became friends with Tim Chapman, who was director of the Averitt at the time, and when the job of technical director opened up, because of his skill set and experience, he got the call. He still holds the position, and is also production manager, a title the Averitt board added last year.

In the 15 years since he first was hired, Faller has come to wear a lot of hats at the Averitt. His regular duties include serving as technical support for all rentals, concerts, professional performances and special events, as well as the general maintenance of all the buildings associated with the Averitt. 

As technical director, he is responsible for the design and execution of all Averitt Center productions for lighting, design and operation, audio engineering, projection and set construction. 

In addition, he is responsible for the installation and upkeep of all lighting and audio equipment in both the Emma Kelly and Whitaker Black Box theaters. As production manager, some of his duties include scheduling the performance season and setting all production budgets for the year.

Faller loves the variety that comes with his job. 

“While a portion of my job does require me to stay in the office reviewing budgets, it's never long before I am up moving around in the theater or our warehouse working on a show.  And while the general concepts that go into producing shows rarely change, because each show is different those concepts produce a different product every time,” he said.

Faller says there are many challenges to be faced in his job.

“Budget is always a challenge to overcome or work with,” he said. “In theater, it becomes a balance between keeping shows affordable for our audience while trying to produce and maintain the highest level of quality possible.” 

Another challenge is the employee to time ratio. There are often multiple local shows or events in the theater each month, and it can be a challenge to maintain that schedule while still keeping the space clean and ready for any rental or professional show. 

“A final challenge that I imagine any actor/dancer who has performed on stage here would name would be that the stage is too small. And while the stage is too small, we still manage to produce large cast musicals every year,” he said, pointing to an Elvis impersonator show one year that included more than 20 band members and dancing girls on stage at the same time. “It just takes some creative thinking from everyone involved to make it work.”

There’s no one thing, Faller says, that makes him good at his job. If you attend a show at the Averitt Center, you may not see him. But you will certainly miss him if he’s not around.

“I’ve been told that I come from an older era of theater where people in my position were there not because of one singular thing they knew (lighting, audio, set, etc.) but because of the amount they know over the span of all aspects of theater,” he said. “Those people also had the drive to continue to learn more and improve their knowledge of all aspects of theater instead of simply finding someone to fix a problem for them because it wasn’t part of their direct job description.  So I suppose that's what makes me good at this job, I know a little about a lot and haven’t stopped wanting to know more.”

Faller works to learn more every day on the job. He didn’t have experience with audio when he first started, but he’s learned so much over the years.

“Much of what I know now has been a result of working with other sound engineers and musicians that have come through town. With the addition of production manager to my title, I find myself having to learn a whole new set of tasks along with the need to pay closer attention to those smaller tasks that I would often overlook,” he said.

Faller says he doesn’t have a favorite show that he’s worked on, although working “Driving Miss Daisy” was certainly what he calls “a nice experience.”

“Our production of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ offered me my first opportunity to travel with a show to neighboring towns and seeing people not only here in Statesboro but in each town we went to react to that performance so positively,” he said. 

He says that opening nights at the Averitt are pretty calm, as long as everything has been done correctly. He often spends hours working on sets, and sitting through rehearsals, taking notes himself and reviewing director notes so that the lights and sound are right. He was a one-man operation for a long time, but these days, he has an assistant technical director, Clint Tootle.

Faller says the Averitt Center contributes to the community in many ways. Not only does the center provide classes in theater, music and art, but there are local, regional and national performances hosted in the Emma Kelly theater that bring so much joy the community as a whole. 

“And simply put, I fit into that by being one of the cogs that keeps that machine going,” he said.

As a member of the community, Faller says he wouldn’t mind seeing more music and comedians come through town. 

“As someone who works in theater, where we go isn’t as important as that we continue to keep going.  Every day we have to compete with movie companies with million dollar budgets and advanced special effects techniques, people’s ability to stay home and download almost every movie or show made, or livestream any band in any country at any time, it would be a shame if people lose interest in slowing down, going out and supporting their local theater,” he said. 

When he’s not at work, Faller enjoys spending time fishing from his kayak, and says he doesn’t care where that is — if there’s water, he’s there. 

“Lakes, rivers, ponds or down in the marshes; I’ll go where the water is,” he said. 

Faller in the booth
Shown in the control booth, Faller has been at the Averitt for 15 years.
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