By Scott MacClelland
Carey Crockett seems to thrive when he’s up against a deadline. He’d probably protest that painting scenery until 2 or 3 in the morning was his choice. But a show can’t go on until Crockett has completed his part of it. That means the new MPC Theatre Company production of The Taming of the Shrew will open this weekend, as Veronica Ripley’s photo of Crockett’s set design and scenic art shows. In this case, Crockett took his design inspiration from the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Yet Crockett has designed sets for this very Shakespeare comedy many times during the last three decades, each different from the next.
Crockett is what could be called a polymath because his range of artistic talents is so vast. Walt deFaria, well known locally as a producer, writer and director, as well as producer of movies and television in Hollywood, says he has been “astounded” by his talent, “as director, writer, performer,” and his artistic ability “to take any subject and turn it into something humorous.” DeFaria has directed PacRep’s summer musicals, produced Dance Kids’ annual Nutcracker ballet, and earlier this season designed the Monterey Symphony’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. “Carey is simply a fantastic scenic artist,” says deFaria. “And I’ll never forget his hilarious send-up as Oliver Hardy opposite Bob Colter’s Stan Laurel” (below). He also praises Crockett’s work with students and young people.
Crockett graduated from Seattle’s Burnley School of Professional Art in 1976 and he relocated to Monterey in 1980. The list of his productions just in Monterey County, in every capacity, including the institutions and schools he has worked for, is staggering. His local clientele is a Who’s Who of major names in every field, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pebble Beach Resorts, Monterey Convention Center, Highlands Inn, Hyatt Resort Monterey, Carmel Valley Ranch, Stone Pine, Bernardus Lodge, Rancho San Carlos and Kit Parker Films. He has designed and painted literally dozens of shows for local theater companies, including major student productions among numerous schools and other educational programs. (He also designed our own PAMB logo.)
DeFaria is not the only one in awe of Crockett’s gifts and achievements. Hamish Tyler, director of the Media Center at the Monterey County Office of Education, says he (too) has worked with Crockett “off and on close to 30 years.” Tyler recalls a spectacular moment when he was director of theater arts at Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach. “Outside of Keck Auditorium, Carey had laid on the ground a 20 by 30 foot drop and the whole time he was painting it he was talking to me,” he explains. “I wondered to myself, ‘how do you even know what you’re doing?’” He finally finished “this gigantic drop, it dried, we hung it up and I was stupefied.”
Then Tyler says, in a lowered voice, “I had to be careful when he painted signage, because Carey’s dyslexic and his spelling sometimes needs to be corrected.” But one of Crockett’s endearing qualities reveals itself when he works with high school students. “His sensitivity to his art-forms the teenagers pick up on right away,” says Tyler. “He explains to the kids that he’s dyslexic and that he has overcome it through art.” Long involved with Carmel’s Forest Theater Guild during its heyday, Tyler recalls vividly a set design Crockett did for Showboat. Calling it the greatest thing he did for FTG, “he built a showboat right on the stage, and a calliope. It was spectacular.”
After Shrew, what comes next for Crockett? He says he’s got irons in the fire but nothing concrete to disclose at this time. MPC Theatre Company has an uncertain future, so for him it’s one show to the next, in a community that adores his work but has not been able to give him the job security that his talents warrant.
In future Performing Arts People postings, we will profile other artists of exceptional talent who have chosen to live and work in our communities in spite of the material success and job opportunities they could easily find in major cities. All the more reason, therefore, that we celebrate them whenever and however we can.