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Man of many talents

Bremerton Community Theater actor, director, producer and stagehand Robert Montgomery displays a model he made for 2002 production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”  - Photo by Marcie Miller
Bremerton Community Theater actor, director, producer and stagehand Robert Montgomery displays a model he made for 2002 production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”
— image credit: Photo by Marcie Miller

Robert Montgomery’s workspace at Bremerton Office Machines is filled to overflowing with old typewriters, copying machines in various states of repair, dinosaurs of the computer age, yellowing monitors, manuals for office machines that haven’t been made in 50 years, and a drafting table that doubles as an operating table for dismantling or repairing equipment.

Classical music from KING-FM drifts through the fifth floor space overlooking the Bremerton waterfront while a timecard clock kachunks every few minutes as if a progression of factory workers is filing in. A fine layer of dust covers everything.

A vintage orange Naugahyde couch faces a shelf full of IBM Selectrics, and high on a shelf are what appear to be four cardboard doll houses.

They are actually scale models of sets for the Bremerton Community Theater, and speak of Montgomery’s passion for local theater.

Now 83 — 84 in January — Montgomery has been involved in the BCT since 1950.

“My first play was ‘Born Yesterday,’ he said. “I was drafted to play a devious politician, Senator Hedges.” He paused with precise comic timing before adding, “I’m not sure if I was any good or not.”

He was good enough to be cast the following season by BCT founder Eddie Hammond in “Two Blind Mice.”

“Somewhere along the line I thought, ‘I’ll pretend I’m a director,’” he said.

That was in the late 1950s. To date he has acted in 39 plays, worked backstage in more than 100, and directed 31. He’s played everything from a drunk yelling in the hall to a presidential candidate.

Somewhere else along the line he felt that building scale models of the sets would be a good idea.

“The thing about cardboard is, it’s easier to change than sets on stage,” he said.

He has built about 10 models, but the four he keeps in the office are the most complete.

They are miniature versions of the sets for “Rumors,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” You Can’t Take it With You” and “The Merry Widow.”

Using a stepstool that his mother bought when Montgomery was a youngster, he carefully pulled two of the models off the shelf.

The models are nearly exact replicas of the stages, including the color schemes. Like the full-size sets, the models are built in “frames” — panels which can be moved as needed. At the community theater the high ceiling over the stage allows for 12-foot tall panels to be hoisted up and out of the way as set changes dictate. On stage they are made of painted cloth or canvas, giving the illusion of a solid wall, without the weight.

Montgomery’s model for “The Taming of the Shrew” is based on a set designed by an English architect’s idea of what Shakespeare’s Globe Theater on the Thames looked like. There are no drawings of the original theater, which burned down in the 1600s when a cannonball fired from the stage set fire to the thatched roof.

In designing the BCT model Montgomery had to take into consideration the need for 13 scenes and 20 set changes on one stage.

“The main reason for the sets is to give an idea of what it takes (on stage),” he said.

What he came up with was a basic set with six entry points and several levels. Lighting and placement of actors on the stage helped to create the different scenes.

“It’s mostly illusion,” Montgomery said. “We had to depend on the imagination of the audience. I think we got away with it.”

Montgomery has directed five Shakespeare plays at BCT: “Othello,” “The Merry Widows,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Julius Caesar” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” He played Dr. Pinch in “A Comedy of Errors.”

He said Shakespeare is a good draw for the theater, averaging 80 to 90 percent full houses. For “Romeo and Juliet,” the response was even greater.

“We had full houses, and ran 13 performances instead of 12.” More than one night was standing room only in the 200 seat theater.

Montgomery said he would like to direct “Julius Caesar” again at BCT. After all, it’s been 40 years since the last production, and he still has the set plans.

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