Master carpenter Resenbeck lives to perform



Jasper native Douglas Resenbeck has returned to Dubois County with his family to perform at this weekend’s Rosenvolk German Medieval Festival in Ferdinand.

Resenbeck, 61, has been performing and building — he is the master carpenter at the San Diego Opera House — for more than 30 years. The 1975 Jasper High School graduate has lived in San Diego since the U.S. Navy stationed him there in 1976.

He and his family — wife, Mary; 22-year-old son, Douglas; 19-year-old daughter, Alexis; and 4-year-old daughter, Grace — form the troupe, “A Fool and His Family.”

How often Resenbeck and the family performs varies. The average is 10 to 15 weekends a year, although this summer and spring he admitted that he performed every weekend for more than 20 weeks. Resenbeck wants to ultimately retire and travel to fairs to perform as much as possible.


How did you get into the arts field?

I’ve always wanted to perform on stage. But I was raised in Jasper, and my family has always said, “You need a backup plan! If you can’t be an actor, you need a backup plan.” So my whole life, I worked on my backup plan.

I started way back with the Eli Green Theater. We’d go out to the (Dubois County) 4-H Fairgrounds and do two shows in the summertime. During that time, I was involved in building the set and acting. So I’ve kinda always done this. In high school, Bill Balsbaugh used to be the choir director, would put on musicals. We did “Damn Yankees” and at the same time, I built the show and I acted in it. So it all went hand in hand for me.

After the Navy, I went to college and earned an associate’s degree in theater. In 1980, I worked for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and from there I started working for the San Diego Opera. Five years ago, my boss passed away. And I became the master carpenter. I run the company’s Scenic Studio.

What do you actually do as master carpenter?

My typical day is doing the payroll in the morning, doing the roll call, and assigning everybody jobs. Then I oversee the building of the scenery. I arrange for the travel and the install. And I make sure we’re at budget, that we’re not going over budget.

What kinds of sets have you and your crew built?

We build shows and operas. We build for just about anybody. We bid for a show, then draw out the plans and we build it.

We build shows for Comic-Con. We do a lot of shows for a lot of smaller theaters in town, ballets. Last year we built a show for a rock and roll show that was touring. When a corporation has its yearly meeting, we build the screens and the staging.

Recently, we did a show for Glenner (George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers in San Diego). They’re building these buildings so that seniors who have Alzheimer’s can go there and go back in time.

We’ve built hundreds of operas over my 30 years.

How did you get into Renaissance shows?

In the 80’s I started a theater group called the Fault Line Players, like ‘82, ‘83, and we were an improvisational sketch comedy group. We worked at Seaport Village and we did street fairs, and somebody said I ought to do these Renaissance fairs. So I hooked up with a Renaissance fair, and for me it was the first time I ever stood right in front of an audience where you could touch them. I mean you’re like only 2 or 3 feet away. And it was just immediate gratification. It was like you did something and you saw the reaction. I thought, “I really like this.” I’m not in a movie. I’m not on a stage with the lights in my eyes. I see the audience, make them laugh, whatever it is. So for 10 years I did that with my theater group.

How did you switch to performing with your family?

When I met Mary, I decided to go more into a family type of show. The Fault Line Players was not a family-friendly type of show. And I looked at the fair and thought about what they didn’t have. They didn’t have a family-friendly show.

So I wrote my version of “Cinderella,” which is “Rindercella" — it’s a Spoonerism (mixing up the syllables in a spoken phrase and achieving a comic effect, named from its creator, former Oxford dean William Archibald Spooner). I came up with the plan of bringing five people up on stage and then using my family for the rest of the people and doing the show with them. It was a big hit.

When we had my son, Douglas, I decided that I needed to write a play for my kids. So I wrote “Hansel and Gretel,” which is “Gansel and Hretel.” I wrote “Gansel and Hretel” for Douglas and Alexis, so that they could perform. So they started doing that when they were little, like 1-year-olds. Now Grace is taking over that, but I use the audience for those roles.

I do the same thing with “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but that’s the only show I don’t Spoonerize. It was the first story I told way back in ‘82. I would do shows in between the Fault Line Players, to give them a break. Way back then, I told it using all audience members.

What do you hope people get from watching you and your family perform?

When I was at Tenth Street (Elementary), we had to write a goal, and we had to knit it into a piece of burlap. It was some art class. My goal was to make everybody I meet smile.

I looked at that years and years later, and I think I have that same goal. I feel with the show I do, I take everybody out of whatever is happening in the world, and for 20 minutes to half an hour I perform this silly little show that makes people smile.

What do you get out of this?

Sometimes my day-to-day job gets tough, so fairs are like a relief. But Renaissance fairs don’t pay the health care benefits, you know. I work at the opera shop to make a living. But I live to perform.


“A Fool and His Family” is performing this weekend in the Rosenvolk German Medieval Festival’s Fantasy Area — at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday. The festival is being held at 18th Street Park in Ferdinand. The group also performed at the festival today.

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