Caden Runnalls, who just last year was a student, has gone from a Butler graduate to director for technical theater. Runnalls was offered the seat for director of technical theater by Bob Peterson, a speech and theatre professor.
His experience in theatre first began his freshman year of high school. This program actually started two years prior to Runnalls’ involvement.
“My friend and I thought we were going to audition for it,” Runnalls said. “[As it turned out,} we didn’t do anything for it, but it seemed really cool. We watched it, and we said we wanted to be a part of it.”
Before Runnalls ventured into theatre, he and his friend created YouTube videos, but he was not serious about acting.
During Runnalls’ sophomore year of high school, he auditioned for Robin Hood.
“My friend and I did audition for a play, and he got the lead, and I became his antagonist in Robin Hood, so he was Robin Hood, and I was sheriff of Nottingham,” Runnalls said. “After that it gets pretty addicting. You know the crowd loving you and the physicality of it all and getting a laugh from the audience… is why I decided to keep on doing it. I was good at getting a laugh.”
Runnalls, a Conway Springs graduate, helped his father around the house with small projects. When he was helping his father build these projects, Runnalls learned some of the mechanics behind buildings such as large and smalls sets.
“Other than that, I had no large construction experience,” Runnalls said. “But coming here to Butler, … I got involved with prompt making, set design and art in general that I became much more interested in it and getting a hands-on experience.”
Following his high school graduation, Runnalls thought of working as a voice actor or radio DJ. During his time as a student at Butler, Runnalls took mass communication courses and was on a theatre practicum scholarship.
“I did a lot more acting, but I mostly envision myself being some kind of host or something like,” Runnalls said. “I still think that my future could lie in producing…, but it’s sort of changed since high school.”
Among his theatre memories, the comedic production of Robin Hood stands out. Runnalls recalls a specific moment during opening night at a matinee performance for younger students.
“The set was two backing flats that were about 10 feet high, and all they were was as little 1″ x 3″ legs,” Runnalls said. “I was coming on stage chasing Robin Hood, and my sword got caught behind one of the vacuum flats. It came and slammed down on stage and broke like half the set, and all the little kids thought it was part of the show. They started laughing, and I think I said, ‘The castle’s been damaged.’ Then I run off, and then we did the rest of the show, but that was symbolic of my first show breaking the entire set.”
Runnalls has had many roles in theatre productions, so working in the technical department is something that is new to him. For this Butler alumni, Runnalls wanted to try something new.
“I felt that I accomplished everything I wanted to do with the acting scope, and I found that it’s a much more viable job to be on the technical part of theatre,” Runnalls said. “It’s still creative, and you still get to have good experiences, but it’s not the starving artist sort of life. I realized I liked building and working with my hands.”
Scapin opened the fall theatre season, and this was Runnalls’ first official set design as technical theatre director.
“He’s wonderful to work with, very dedicated, very intelligent, very inventive, and the set is two houses set in 1954 Naples, Italy,” Peterson, Scapin director, said. “He has made a fountain that actually works, so that has been a lot of fun, but he has been very creative.”
Although he was initially worried, Runnalls felt confident following the performance of Scapin.
“I was really worried halfway through it that I was looking at it and it was before we had done any drywall texturing,” Runnalls said. “I looked at it, and I go, ‘This is going to look like crap. Oh man, I’m going to get fired my first semester.’ Then once we got more into color and more into texture, ‘Ok, it actually worked out.’ Then sitting back and watching the show and what I would do differently, I really didn’t find that many major flaws for the time constraints we had in the budget and the crew. I thought we did a really good job, …. so that really bolstered my confidence.”
At the moment, Runnalls and his technical theatre crew are working on the set of Cleopatra, which will premiere Friday, Nov. 18.