Job: Assistant Master Electrician, Center for the Arts, and Chair of Staff Senate
Will Gautney started working at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts as a part-time stagehand in 2013. The job involved lots of lifting, building, and prep work for shows. In 2018, he was hired full-time as assistant master electrician, his current role. He helps plan shows, leads the stagehands, and manages the technical aspects of lighting and design.
Beyond his role in the Center for the Arts, Gautney was elected to Mason’s Staff Senate in 2021. He joined the advisory body to advocate for wage and non-traditional staff at the university—staff like him, who are working in non-desk jobs, or outside traditional business hours. In June 2023, Gautney was nominated and elected as chair of the senate, and he started that two-year term in July.
The show goes on: The main performance season at the Center for the Arts runs from September to May. Most days during the season are spent preparing for shows or reviewing the technical requirements for a performance. During the summer months, Gautney and his colleagues take the opportunity to organize and perform maintenance on theatrical equipment.
Lighter than air: When working on a show, Gautney spends most of his day in the theater space—running the crew, communicating with tour and artistic clients, and doing hands-on work. Sometimes with his feet on the ground, but sometimes not: “I enjoy being able to climb into a safety harness or ride up in a lift; really wherever I can be of assistance,” Gautney said.
An art, not a science: Besides the technical and safety aspects of the show, Gautney works with the artistic staff to achieve their vision. “Because a lot of what we do is artistically-charged, there can be quite a bit of time devoted to ‘zhuzhing’ finer details to make something look artistically ‘pretty’ on top of necessary safety and functionality,” Gautney said.
Showtime means go time: “Some shows require a few hours of checking that the lights turn on and then pressing ‘go’ on the light board, or sliding faders,” Gautney said. “Other shows can require 18-hour days—including load-in of gear, set up, rehearsal, the performance itself, load out, and setting up another show for the next day.”
Variety is the spice of life: Gautney enjoys working with the broad range of performances at Mason, including both internal and external groups. “Everything from the student step show and fashion show to Mason’s schools of music, theater, and dance, Game Mason, Virginia Opera, and TheaterWorks children’s matinees.”
The magic of showbiz: Gautney appreciates the chance to help generate the thrill of the theater. “I enjoy making sure the production is as close to an artist’s vision as we can safely accomplish with our equipment and time available,” Gautney said.
Vote of confidence: Becoming the chair of Staff Senate was not something he expected. “With leadership, I typically follow a philosophy that people who strive for power are those who probably shouldn’t have it, and those who would be great in a role of power do not always want it,” Gautney said. He felt honored to be nominated and elected chair.
Representation matters: Since 2020, the chair of the Staff Senate has also served as staff liaison to the university’s Board of Visitors. Gautney wants to make sure staff voices are heard at the highest levels of the university. “The largest issues for staff at the moment are increased workloads, fair market compensation, outside misconceptions of staff whose work involves Mason’s diversity goals, and the acute need to support staff morale,” Gautney said. He said he will continue looking for solutions to these issues and advocating for staff interests.
Fun and games: When he isn’t busy with his many responsibilities at Mason, Gautney enjoys a good board game. If not playing in-person, he plays digital games with friends and family across the country.
Feeling (or feline) spirited: Gautney and his wife, who is a Mason alum, have a cat named Binx, named after the one in the film Hocus Pocus. He and his wife enjoy taking weekend excursions to escape the day-to-day hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia. Breweries and distilleries are some of their favorite destinations.
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