Theatre spotlight: Thingamajig’s Jill Fives is a 10

Photo courtesy Kirk Speer
Jill Fives works on a piece for “Transitions,” currently showing at the Pagosa Center for the Arts gallery. Fives also serves as the scenic artist for the theater company.

By Cynda Green
Special to The PREVIEW
Jill Fives graces Thingamajig Theatre Company’s stage as lead scenic artist, creating the painted effects and texture that, along with lighting, bring to life a magical theater set.
Fives describes herself as “a behind-the-scenes type of gal.”
Laura Moore, executive director for the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts (PSCA), describes Fives as “crazy talented.”
This summer, Fives leaves her comfort zone to take center stage as PSCA’s featured gallery artist. Her show is appropriately named “Transitions.”
Scenic artist
Fives got her degree in fashion design and soon after moved to Tempe, Ariz., to work with a company doing production art for commercials and movies.
“That’s where I was introduced to scenic painting. I love painting big,” she said.
In 2003, Fives moved to Colorado and spent 10 years as lead scenic artist at the Arvada Center. There, she connected with Moore, who played the spider in “James and the Giant Peach.”
“I thought she was the most exotic spider ever,” Fives said.
Fives is now in her fourth year painting full time for Thingamajig.
“It was transformative because I was getting burned out with theater. But Thingamajig has a different approach and it appeals to my inner being. I definitely have a loose, less follow-the-rules mindset, so this place is perfect. It’s Thingamajig,” she said, adding, “My construction team is phenomenal and each year, I become closer to the volunteers. Thingamajig is an outstanding family.”
Fives favors more complicated and detail-oriented techniques, noting, “They’re more fun. I embrace the challenges of production work. It’s a physical job. The size, limited time frames, last minute changes with no light, creating techniques with no clue how I’m going to approach it — all this is what keeps the work exciting.”
She is also in her third year as lead scenic artist for Aspen Opera.
Fine artist
For the last three years, Fives and photographer husband Kirk Speer and kitty Gemstone have lived on the road and gone where the work is — freelance photography and scenic painting.
Fives’ fantasy was to find a studio and return to painting fine art for herself — something she had not done for 25 years. Her dream came true when Moore texted her: “How would you like a Jill Fives art show? We have the wall (PSCA Gallery). It’s yours this summer.”
But Fives didn’t have a studio where she could paint for the show, and she and Kirk couldn’t find the perfect place to paint. It was then that Moore offered Thingamajig’s Artist House loft as a temporary studio. Fives has been painting there since February.
“It’s a huge learning curve. Fine art is a completely different discipline. I’m trained in oil and I’m using acrylic. I’m back and forth — painting in the studio and then the set,” she said, adding, “I’m combining my world as a scenic artist with the cropped style I used as a kid. As a young artist-in-training, the images I loved were not big stories, but more the tree than the forest. I focused on small details, and that is what I’m doing with these images.”
She continued, “This show is about what makes me happy — it’s what I’m passionate about being in front of for a period of time. I’m a huge animal lover. My first passion is the flamingo, my spirit animal. Many of my paintings are painted from Kirk’s photos. Our travels have afforded us many exciting photo/painting opportunities.”
Fives was hired as scenic artist for the recently released Netflix film “Our Souls at Night,” starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Some of the pieces she painted for Redford’s character will also be in “Transitions.”
Speaking about Thingamajig and PSCA directors Tim and Laura Moore, Fives said, “They have provided for me as an artist — and not just me — with what they have brought to Pagosa. It touches me beyond any thank you I could give them. I have this moment to have this article written about me, and to have my show ‘Transitions’ because of Laura and Tim. My show is the biggest hug I can give to them.”
This summer’s “Broadway in the Mountains” at Thingamajig Theatre features five shows playing in repertory — “Legally Blonde,” “West Side Story,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Pinkalicious.”
Don’t miss the opportunity to see Fives’ fabulous scenic set designs and her fine arts show in the PSCA gallery.
For show and ticket information, call 731-SHOW (7469) or visit pagosacenter.org.
Thingamajig Theatre is a professional nonprofit 501(c)(3) theater in residence within the PSCA producing musicals, comedies and dramas year-round.

This story was posted on August 3, 2018.