December 7, 2023

Doug Noble: Show Time

The elegant gowns and long flowing locks made her a standout by anyone’s standards, but it was Miss Piggy’s personality – “her attitude and comic timing” – that caught Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble’s attention.

UMW Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble

UMW Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble

He grew up watching The Muppet Show on his parents’ boxy TV. So meeting Muppets creator Jim Henson’s biographer, Brian J. Jones, at UMW was a highlight of Noble’s career.

“I love it when they thank me personally for the great tech experience,” he said of Jones and other William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series presenters. “I take pride in the fact that we’re ready for them on time and have everything working before they arrive … and they’re so grateful for the personal attention we give them.”

The fawning is part of his job – along with set-ups and sound-checks, rehearsals and stage prompts, and everything else in between. Since taking the helm of the thousand-plus-seat auditorium in 2006, Noble has handled hundreds of events, from employee information sessions to star-studded performances, but the Great Lives lecturesare among his favorites.

The lights will dim and the music will fade when the series’ 16th season kicks off on Tuesday with Rodgers and Hammerstein biographer Todd Purdum … and it will be show time!

It will all seem like magic, but long after the curtain has closed and the last of the guests have filed out into the night, Noble will still be working in Dodd.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A: Working with the students

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Working with the students 

Q: You make a point to read all the Great Lives books. Why?
A: I love to read and I think it’s important to be able to establish a connection with each author before the lectures to help put them at ease. I have the books signed as a reminder of this great series and the time I spent with them.

Q: Despite the pressures of live performances, you always seem unflappable. How do you do it?
A: Two things: Be as prepared as you can before the event so you can handle emergencies when they arrive. If you’re still doing basic set-up when performers arrive, you’re not paying attention to their last-minute needs and you’re cutting into their time, which can put everyone on edge. Also, I worked with a wonderful general manager who would often remind me that theatre isn’t brain surgery and no one will die if a mistake happens. It’s all how you handle the error and keep the show moving.

Q: What’s the most high-profile performance you’ve ever handled in Dodd?
A: That has to be the [2017] Kristin Chenoweth concert with the UMW Philharmonic.

Q: Any unusual special requests from performers?
A: To have the stage painted black for their show… as you can see that didn’t happen.

Q: Any mishaps during a show that you can laugh about now?
A: A student kicked the plug out of the outlet that was controlling the lighting console and plunged the whole stage into darkness. It took a minute to figure out what had happened and get the lights back on. It was very stressful and not fun at the time.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I taught theatre design for 16 years at various colleges and universities around the country.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: You have to remain flexible – no plans are set in concrete.