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ADIRONDACK LIVING: John Nicholson follows his passion to the theater

August 2, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - John Nicholson has an extensive background in business.

He ran his own event planning and production company, was the vice president of a technology support business, worked for a corporate consulting firm and most recently was the marketing director at North County School/Camp Treetops on state Route 73 in Lake Placid.

Amidst the corporate life, though, Nicholson was also a stage actor.

Article Photos

John Nicholson stands outside of the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake. He recently left his job at North Country School/Camp Treetops in Lake Placid to take the position of managing director for the theater.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Nicholson recently took the role of managing director at Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake.

"I had these two very disparate skill sets," he said, "and this job allows me to combine the two together."

Originally from Chicago, and now a Lake Placid resident, Nicholson said the "theater bug" bit him at a young age. He got his first taste of the stage when his parents would take him to the Goodman Theater in Chicago for children's matinees.

"They were these wonderful versions of well-loved children's stories," he said, "and after the show, I remember the actors always used to come out into the lobby in full costume. The costumes were incredibly elaborate, and you got to meet them. At the time they seemed like sort of mythic figures, but they were college kids in costumes."

A performance of "Androcles and the Lion" stuck out in Nicholson's memory.

"I particularly remember the guy who played the lion and just his incredibly elaborate lion costume," he said, "which, as a small child, I remember coming up and just being awestruck by."

Afterward, Nicholson met the Lion in the lobby to get his program signed.

"They would sign it 'The Lion,'" Nicholson said. "That stuck with me my whole life."

Nicholson went on to play some characters who also had impressive costumes and designs.

"At Pendragon, I played Antonio Salieri in 'Amadeus' a couple of seasons ago, and that was quite a beautiful set of elaborate costumes," he said. "I was in a production of 'The Comedy of Errors.' I played a bunch of small roles, and one of them was this fat merchant who had this giant fat suit. Not only was it fat, but to make me look taller, they actually had a fake head on top of my own head. The illusion was just this amazing fat guy, bare-chested with these harem pants and turned up shoes. I remember every time I made my first entrance, the audience would collapse in peals of laughter."

In his new role, Nicholson said he supports the artistic director's vision.

"For instance, to plan a season," he said, "the artistic director can say, 'I want to do this play,' and I'll say, 'Well here's how we're going to pay for it.' You want to have a mix of stuff that's really commercial because you know it will fill seats and other stuff you want to do because it's important artistically for the theater. It's also managing all the other business functions of the theater, and that includes things that are not very sexy but things like payrolls and paying the bills and helping set up the tours."

As to when Nicholson will get back on stage, he said it's up in the air right now as the theater plans to relocate from Brandy Brook Ave. to Woodruff Street - closer to Saranac Lake's downtown.

"Obviously, I love being on stage, and I love working with this wonderful group of actors and directors here, but right now particularly with this huge project of raising $6 million for the new theater, my hands are going to be pretty full. So you know, we'll see, but that is my laser focus right now."



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