Profile of a Senator January 2022

Meet Will Gautney, Staff Senator and Assistant Master Electrician, Center for the Arts, College of Visual and Performing Arts

William Gautney, Assistant Master Electrician, Center for the Arts, College of Visual and Performing Arts. Photo by Creative Services

Role: Alongside the Master Electrician and our other great hourly and classified staff, I help make sure the needs of performances at our venue are met. There’s a bit of prep paperwork, programming, physical labor, and design mixed with a lot of quick problem solving and a dash of crew management.

Mason journey: I started as an “overhire” stagehand (fancy theatre term for “can do just about anything part-time hourly wage staff”) in late 2013, and continued part time off and on for many years. While working with various theatre companies across the country, I’ve been a master carpenter, technical director, painter, props artisan, stitcher, house manager, electrician, rigger, and even (terribly) mixed audio for a middle school’s version of Beauty and the Beast. Even after working with so many companies, the staff at Mason’s Center for the Arts were those I felt most at home with, and I was fortunate in September 2018 to be offered a full-time position.

The “before times”: A typical week in a season (school year) consisted of shows every day or two, with occasional week-long residencies for dance, opera, or student groups. We also typically had at least one day each week for changing over scenery and lights, which needs pre-planning, paperwork, and lots of coordination. After graduations our schedule typically became much less crunched, and we could maintenance at our own pace during time available between new student orientations on stage and other smaller events.

Covid-19 transition: When the world stopped, the arts were hit heavily. Fortunately, thanks to some creative thinking, we were able to assist Mason in other ways. It required a lot of tutorial videos and practice, but several of us were able to transition into running things behind the scenes for digital shows and editing their archival recordings, while the rest were able to help Mason students by making sure classes could safely transition to our large open theater space. You can check out both the Center for the Arts’ or the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s YouTube pages to see some of how we were able to keep the arts alive.

Best thing about working for Mason: I love working with faculty, staff, students, and outside clients to make their shows look great. The variety of shows, groups, and functions help to scratch that fast-paced puzzle-solving itch that comes with working in live theater, but with an added benefit of developing long-term working relationships granted by being at just one stable venue. I also really enjoy helping guide the growth of student talent and skills during and after their time at Mason.

Why I serve on Staff Senate: There are often choices, decisions, and policies made that directly impact – yet often overlook – part-time and hourly staff. I wanted to serve as an advocate for those often-forgotten roles who work odd hours, on the weekends, or during holidays.

Additionally, I enjoy being able to hear and have an impact on what is going on around campus, as well as help to promote initiatives, staff, and departments that might otherwise be left as just a footnote in their unit’s newsletter. Even before Covid, Mason sometimes felt like lots of little bubbles, so it’s wonderful to be able to expand my connections and work with so many other departments and voices.

 Unique fact: Shortly after college my left eyebrow decided to go white overnight. Since it didn’t bother me, I decided to keep it that way…but it definitely makes me easier to spot in a crowd!

 At the end of the day: Though I grew up surrounded by tons of animals, I currently am just a cool cat dad to one black, very food-obsessed, cat. I’m glad to be able to work with such a wide array of wonderful and quirky people. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done, especially when it comes with time or effort, and I try to keep that drive with my work at Mason. Also, come visit us, watch a show, or just support local businesses and the arts!