Webster Junior Josh Swan, an Austin transplant, was the Technical Director for Webster Conservatory’s adaptation of “As You Like It,” which just finished showing last weekend.
The role of technical director is one of the more involved jobs on the crew of a show. Long hours and little thanks are a required facet of the job.
“Being a technical director means being in charge of most of the scenic elements, not design, but how to take design and realize it,” Swan said. “You do the budgeting, run the crews, build drawings, assemble the set, load it in.”
This was not initially what drew Swan into the world of theater; he started out as an actor at an early age.
“I was getting into acting, because I was a cute kid, and I had an awesome afro so people wanted me to be an actor,” Swan said.
During this period, he was not only immersed in the world of theater, but the world of carpentry as well. Coupling his acting aspirations with his father’s work, Swan helped him on projects that ranged from chair repair to carpet installation.
“When I was a kid, my dad and I worked a lot in his garage, on furniture,” Swan said. “I took some acting classes, but in high school , I decided I liked technical theater better because it was all of the carpentry I had been learning to do my entire life, a good mash up of all the things I like. By the time I was a sophomore in highschool, I had pretty much decided that this was what I wanted to do.”
Swan is a very popular person to work with within the Conservatory. Sophomore Stage Manager Beth Gasser said Swan is great to work with.
“[Josh] Swan is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever worked with,” Gasser said. “He values each person who has worked on the show [As You Like It].”
In addition to this barrel of responsibility, Swan faced another obstacle: dyslexia. Diagnosed with mild Dyslexia at an early age, Swan learned to cope with the illness and thrive despite the circumstances.
“I have severe dyslexia. I had to figure out how to balance being able to read and a career path where you have to read a lot of stuff, it’s a balancing act,” Swan said. “It’s definitely been the biggest challenge in doing this, thankfully I have learned to work around it.”
While the adjustment to a large workload and his condition may have been difficult, the transition from Texas to Missouri has been much smoother.
“I love Austin obviously, but I love the midwest, there are a lot of kind people here, Swan said, then continued, now smiling, “the food in Austin is better though.”
In overcoming these obstacles, Swan does has a determination to give back to the community that has given so much to him. He is a frequent worker with the crew of local charity theaters.
“I worked for the Variety Children’s Theater in downtown St. Louis, it’s basically a full scale professional production, pro actors and dancers, and they train kids with disabilities and get them to do different numbers,” Swan said.
The theater is sponsored by Variety: The Children’s Charity, which is a nonprofit based in St. Louis, that gives out a variety of different resources for special needs children, anything from bikes, to medical equipment, to theater camps.
They most recently put on a performance of The Wizard of Oz.
“It’s very high quality theater for kids who normally wouldn’t have access to that,” Swan said.
Swan’s advice to incoming Tech Director students is to stay take advantage of any opportunities.
“If you say yes to every opportunity you can, you know that many more people, and have had that many more experiences,” Swan said.