Meet Some of Our Grant Recipients

Michael Maag

I recently received a grant from the Behind the Scenes program and I want you to know how important and helpful that act of generosity was. I am Michael Maag the Master Electrician at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, you may have heard of us. Founded in 1935, the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the oldest and largest professional non-profit theatres in the nation. Each year OSF presents an eight-and-a-half-month season of eleven plays in three theatres in rotating rep, OSF presents more than 780 performances annually. So you know that means I have a few things to do.

Unfortunately, while taking a break from the joy and craziness that is the OSF Lighting Department, I was struck by a car while riding my bicycle. The resulting Spinal Cord Injury paralyzed my legs, and permanently damaged my right shoulder. I also faced a deteriorating condition and spreading paralysis that would require more surgery to halt.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival was amazingly accommodating to my new situation; they allowed me to return to work as the Master Electrician. The Festival even held a benefit performance to help with my enormous medical expenses. However, beyond the financial difficulties I had many practical problems to overcome. Just to get to work I had to have someone drive me, unload my wheel chair and help me into it. I also had a very difficult time moving between our three theatres and getting where I needed to be to do my job. My wife and I were overwhelmed with the many financial and practical problems my new situation presented to us.

That is when I wrote to Behind the Scenes after a friend (Dinna Myers at Musson) suggested that I do so. The Behind the Scenes program is a brand new granting agency and I think they might have been a little overwhelmed by enormity of the list of expenses that I need help with. However, they acted quickly and sent me a check for the expense that would be most helpful to me, the motorized wheelchair. With the chair I have a lot of independent mobility options that I did not have before. This chair is so amazing; it has a 10 – 12 mile range. I actually use it to get back and forth from work to home. It also climbs the steep hills of Ashland like it is a mountain goat. Most importantly I can get in and out of the theatres on my own now.

I cannot find enough ways to express my gratitude for this grant. The Behind the Scenes program has given me independence and the ability to continue in the work I love. The support and love of the people at OSF, and through Behind the Scenes, the people in our industry gives me the courage to fight this battle every day.

I urge you to make even a small donation to the Behind the Scenes if you have the means. There are many theatre technicians in need, whose lives can be changed for the better as mine has been.

Thank you to Behind the Scenes for your generosity. The gift you have given will have a long lasting positive effect on my life.