Q & A: AJ Gardner
January 6, 2020
How did you start your career?
I started taking Stage Tech in my junior year at Wando, and then went through Stage Tech 1 and 2, did Honors Drama, went from there, fell in love with tech in the theater. After I graduated high school, I went to New York City with the South of Broadway Theater Company in town and did a Summer in the City program, where they provided me opportunities to do free-lance tech work and take classes for acting on screen. It really pointed me in a direction of how to work in the industry, like how to take it seriously.
Then, I spent a year at the College of Charleston in their tech program. Then I realized I needed a more intensive program so I went to Coastal because they had a B.F.A. in Theater Tech Design. Coastal really helped me learn a lot not just how to do the job, but how to work in the industry and be a professional. That’s something they provided that other schools didn’t and went from there.
What did you do [as a student] in Wando?
Everything. I got as involved as I could. I was in Beta Club, NHS, Symphonic Band, Varsity football, I started the Rugby Club my senior year. I was President of the German Club, Vice President of the Bowling Club, and a couple of other things like Drama Club. Wando provided a lot of opportunity to try and really find what I liked doing, and that’s how I ran into this, just saying yes to everything.
What are your favorite things about the job?
Being in the venue that was the place where I got my start and then finding kids like you [writer Patrick Lady] and Coby and the kids in Theater program and the Fine Arts program that are interested in this. It’s pretty cool to have traveled the world at this point and come back and see that same excitement in a few kids and be able to tell you guys my story and how I’ve done it and try and help you figure out the same hopefully.
Do you have anyone to thank for your success?
I mean, family is always key in support, especially in working in the arts. It’s really easy for families to discredit pursuing a job in the arts, but my family — once I explained to them why I wanted to do what I’m doing — they got behind me 100% and watched me move across the country and the world and never tried talking me out of it. Ever.
What are some of your favorite things to do in your off time?
I like sports, I like music, I like video games and spending time with the family. You know I’ve traveled a lot and so having the opportunity to be in town close to family is something different that’s nice.