Samuel Maynard is only 19, but he already has eight years of theater experience and has first full-time job near New York City.
The Moline native graduated from Alleman High School in Rock Island with honors in 2021 (and a 4.1 GPA), earned his associate’s in arts from Black Hawk College in December 2022, and before moving out to the East Coast recently, Maynard worked at the Bartlett Performing Arts Center (Moline High School) as the director of operations.
He has taken on an assistantship at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J., where he will be working with the sound and lighting designers for three MainStage productions and more. Maynard (an Eagle Scout and winner of a John O’Connor scholarship) applied to Pace University in lower Manhattan, and hopes to start there in fall 2023.
“I also kind of wanted to get down to Manhattan to get my foot in the door here, because half the entertainment industry is just connections,” Maynard said recently, noting Red Bank is about a two-hour train ride from the city and some of his theater friends recommended Pace for college.
He’s been involved behind the scenes in theater since he was 11 years old, when he worked with his father to build sets for Alleman High School’s theater department. Ever since, theater has become a staple of his life, and he has been onstage and backstage, set designing, and directing lighting and sound for many productions throughout the Quad Cities and beyond.
“I just really enjoy lighting and lighting effects,” he said. “That’s when I first started and I really enjoyed it.”
“Luckily I just kind of figured out early on. They asked for some special effects and I was able to provide it,” Maynard said of working on Alleman fog effects when he was 11.
He’s done lighting design for six QC shows and sound design for seven, including QC Music Guild’s “Disaster!” and “Holiday Inn.” Maynard has worked on backstage crews for 16 other shows, including Music Guild, Spotlight, and Davenport Junior Theatre. He’s also worked as a self-employed audiovisual technician.
“My parents really exposed me to a lot,” Maynard said. “I remember going to Chicago and seeing ‘Mary Poppins’ like forever ago and I was being so fascinated with it all. I would always go to Music Guild shows and they just really entertained me.”
Preferring backstage to on stage
The only shows Maynard performed on stage for were at Alleman, in “Grease” and “Hairspray.”
“Personally, I’m not very good at pretending to be someone else in front of a big group of people,” he said. “I’d much rather give a presentation just me myself. But I really enjoy how theater can just really push a message, whether it’s inspiring someone, just causing someone to feel a certain way. I’m just fascinated by the aspect of theater and ultimately, my goal of being in theater is to inspire others, whether that’s through conveying a certain message and by letting others know it’s not impossible to follow their dreams.”
One of his favorite shows to work on was Music Guild’s “A Chorus Line,” but Maynard loves the flashier productions.
“You can do a lot with shows like ‘A Chorus Line’ and have the audience really satisfied, but from a tech person, from a tech point of view, I really enjoy the flashy shows because it challenges me a lot more,” he said. “It just makes for a much more fun experience, if I’m doing something flashy.”
An example of that was doing the “SpongeBob” musical at Muscatine High School in 2021, he said, “because it was so out there and set under the water and it’s SpongeBob, so it has to be colorful.”
Six months at Bartlett Center
For the last six months of 2022, Maynard was operations director for the Bartlett Performing Arts Center, which opened at Moline High School in March 2019. He was responsible for booking events there, maintaining the $12-million facility, and doing some lighting and sound work.
“Unfortunately, we’re kind of priced out as far as getting events,” Maynard said of fees for non-school events to rent the place. “It’s really hard, it’s not an accessible facility for the community, which is really unfortunate. And I had really big hopes when I went into there. We could be having professional shows in there if we really wanted to.”
The Robert E. Bartlett Foundation funded two-thirds of the center’s construction at 3600 Avenue of the Cities, which required it to be available for the community and other artists to use.
Maynard said during his time in the part-time Bartlett job, 99% of events were from the school district. It has been used by Ballet Quad Cities, Opera Quad Cities, and last February’s world premiere of the Jacob Bancks opera “Karkinos.” This June, Opera QC will stage Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” there.
“I had a meeting with the district CFO and according to him, some of these ideas I had were not profitable and what needs to be established is that it’s a high school and schools are not supposed to make money,” Maynard said.
“If you look at the 99% of activities that we’re having in there, if we charged for all of those, if the school is paying to use that facility, they’d be making like millions basically,” he said of the district-owned center. “Especially at the rate they’re charging the community, so unfortunately, yeah, we’re not profitable because we price ourselves out and I don’t think it ever will be profitable at this point.”
“Even the funding, I was trying to get a budget for a few things. Just some upgrades and just to make it a little bit better for the community and even for the students because I’m all for the students having a great facility to work as well — and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a light bulb changed,” Maynard said.
The operations manager job is still open, to not exceed 25 hours a week, and pays $21.80 an hour.
New Jersey theater
The Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J., is about a two-hour train ride from Manhattan and is a professional Equity theater, Maynard said.
Two River (which specializes in new works) serves thousands of students and community members through arts and humanities programs at the theater, in schools, and throughout the region, according to the theater website.
Each year, it hosts many artist residencies, workshops and readings, and present an annual Cabaret of New Songs for the Musical Theater in association with NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program. The theater’s three-story Center for New Work, Education and Design will open later this year.
You can check out Maynard’s work on his website HERE.