As he walks through Irvine Valley College’s scenic production workshop, he beams with a face worn by smile lines and laugh marks.
Michael Collins, the scenic designer and scenic technical director, has been involved with over 400 productions throughout his career working backstage and 60 as a performer.. Throughout his long career Collins said he has learned a great deal and finds working in the IVC theater workshop allows him to pass his knowledge on to students who share his passion.“The shop pretty much encompasses everything from not just carpentry, but painting, sculpting, welding, all aspects of construction and art,” Collins said. “We do a little bit of everything here.”
He maintains a clean cut on his facial hair, trimming the sideburns to have a full goatee and his daily clothing shows an affinity for Hawaiian-styled T-shirts. He is a man who carries himself through the IVC’s production workshop with the demeanor of an artisan and he holds great skill in his craft and his passion is seen in each piece of his work.
Michael Collins, Scenic Director at IVC, holds the stuffed Jackalope that he has hidden in every set he has made at Irvine Valley College in February 2014. Photo by Danny Pestolesi
When discussing his history in the arts and in the district, he has a look of serenity about himself.
“I have worked in the district for the past 23 years, 17 at Saddleback and the past six at IVC,” Collins said.
Collins was the man in charge of constructing the set for “Lend Me A Tenor,” which recently finished its run at IVC. He is also building the set for the upcoming performances of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“This is a dream job for me. When I get up in the morning I get to go to work and,’ say hey we are going to build a castle today or we are going to build a pirate ship,'” he said. “I get to do this for a living and I love it.”
An architectural piece hanging in the IVC scenic design shop in february 2014 that has been used and repurposed multiple times. Photo by Danny Pestolesi
The construction crew has historically had a sense of humor and more than a few inside jokes put into the sets they design. The most common joke is that in every set Collins said that his team has hidden the same jackalope-mounted head. It has been in every set they have made for more years than most of his students have been alive he said.
“If you look closely you can see it in every set we make,” he said. “From the back of a bar to in a bush, it is there.”
Collins has had most of his students go on to work for professional set design and creation companies. He does not directly attribute this to his own doing, but he is glad to see his former students continuing a craft for which he has a profound endearment.