Building Key West’s Broadway

Building Key West’s Broadway

Michael Boyer, The Waterfront Playhouse’s Set Designer

Behind every good play has to be a good set designer and Michael Boyer is such the man at The Waterfront Playhouse. An Illinois native, Boyer is one of those rare breeds who picked a career early in life and stuck to it. As a technical director and scenic designer, Boyer has created set designs for well over 400 productions, adores and credits the people he works with, and loves every minute of it.

“I am always thinking about it, gathering ideas and searching for set props,” said Boyer. When he saw someone walking with a grandfather clock, during the Women’s March, he didn’t hesitate to ask for it.

“I figured the guy had walked it all the way to Mallory Square and maybe he didn’t want to walk it home?” said Boyer with the gleam of someone who won a prize.

Set design can be limited in Key West. Boyer makes do with minimal secondhand stores, the only craft store gone, limited storage and a constant battle against termites to keep his props. He travels during the playhouse’s off season, searching for period set pieces and is a constant savvy online shopper. He works closely with Danny Weathers, managing artistic director at Waterfront, every year to build the perfect “scenario” for the playhouse’s five to six productions. Both theater aficionados have designed previously together at The Tennessee Williams Theater before their 13-year tenure at the Waterfront Playhouse.

“Danny hands me the plays during the summer, and I read and re-read them,” said Boyer. “I make sketches and wait to hear what Danny thinks, but usually we have the same ideas.” Boyer has re-created some of the most famous plays like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Lend Me A Tenor,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Twelve Angry Men,” “The Glass Menagerie” and “Equus” for the Waterfront and La Traviata for Island Opera.  He was also the original set designer for Joyce Stahl’s local wonder, “The Nutcracker.”

The process starts by researching what the original productions looked like and, as Boyer said, “adapting the play to try to create my own scenes”. For example, Broadway may have room for a two-story building in the playhouses upcoming production, “Avenue Q,” but not Waterfront. Boyer will have to make it happen squeezing in buildings and stoops and making way for puppets.

Boyer was always interested in set design, with an early career in New York summer stock to teaching set lighting at Southwest Missouri State. “I taught Kathleen Turner and John Goodman everything they needed to know about stage lighting,” laughed Boyer. Well, it worked.

Boyer’s recent work:

The Trip to Bountiful

Now playing at The Waterfront Playhouse

January 24 – February 11, 2017

Everything in the theater is a deadline.    Michael Boyer, of Waterfront Playhouse

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