Christopher Kiser has been the performing arts technician at Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee since 2003. His expertise with lighting, set design and sound for all theatrical, dance and music productions at the campus has helped actors, dancers and musicians shine.
For his unwavering and enthusiastic dedication to the arts, Arts Council Menifee has chosen Kiser as February's Artist of the Month.
“I work back stage because I love it, but it’s nice when people appreciate those who work behind the scenes in the arts – they know you are not just a spectator,” he said. “ACM does a lot in our community and it’s nice to get recognized by them.”
Growing up in Michigan, Kiser acted on stages from third grade through high school. Before moving to California he started honing his building skills and went into the construction industry. Always in the back of his mind was the idea of going to Hollywood and getting back into acting.
Kiser earned his SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card and worked as an extra in many television shows and movies but the work wasn’t very steady and it didn’t pay too well so he started looking for opportunities closer to his Murrieta home and discovered the Murrieta Repertory Theatre in 2001.
“One of the founding members brought me in as an actor, but then wanted me to be the technical guy,” recalled Kiser, 48. “I didn’t have any experience doing that, but I knew how to build. I took Stagecraft and Lighting classes at MSJC and I was in a couple of their productions.”
He heard about an opening for a part-time tech person to work at the college and relished the opportunity. Soon the job duties expanded and almost exactly 13 years ago, Kiser was hired full time.
”I love what I do, being able to pull everything together,” he said. “I already had a love for theater and that has merged with what I am doing for a living. In addition, I am continually learning all kinds of new things.”
In the Menifee Valley Campus theater’s early days, equipment was minimal, but thanks to some grant money, the department was able to purchase more items.
“When I started we had no workshop and not many tools,” Kiser said. “I built all the sets outside. Now we have this beautiful scene shop and all the tools we need. I love seeing the progression and being involved with it.”
. Kiser and the students in the theater tech classes are responsible for making the theater space work for every production of the Theater, Dance and Music departments.
“Where theater is set heavy, with lots of set design, dance is more about the lighting. Sometimes we have productions that revolve around light and catching the movement. Music is all about good sound,” he said.
Kiser does lots of research on different techniques and said he learns something new with every show.
“When we design we don’t think of the budget first,” he said. “I brainstorm with the director who gives a vision and then I draw up the designs. Then I figure out how it can be done and fit into the budget.”
Recycling is a mainstay of Kiser’s designs and he has learned to use fabric and paints in creative ways to dress up the limited space in which he has to work. Fall and spring semesters keep him busy with musicals, dramas, dance concerts as well as musical productions by the MSJC Jazz Ensemble, MVC Singers, the MVC Guitar Ensemble, plus faculty and student showcases.
“Our deans and administrators are always supportive of what we do in the arts,” Kiser said. “We’ve done some pretty incredible things here.”
In April, the MSJC Menifee Valley Campus Theater Arts Department will present “Spring Shorts” – an evening of short plays designed to delight and intrigue. The campus is located at 28237 La Piedra Road in Menifee.
For more information on the spring production, please visit www.msjc.edu. For information on ACM, please visit www.artscouncilmenifee.org or call 951-290-2781.