Downtown Salisbury Profiles: The People Make the Place

A series featuring the people that have made Salisbury an original place since 1753. 

The day Rod Oden came to Salisbury to interview for the position of Technical Director of Lee Street Theatre, he could tell this small city would challenge his thinking and hoped it would become his home.

“I was only here for a day, and I thought, ‘Wow, this has such a big-city feel for such a small city,’” said Oden, a native of Southern California. “This is the kind of place I’d expect to see north of L.A.” He was beyond impressed with what Salisbury offered: a walkable community with multiple live theaters, its own symphony, wineries, craft breweries, an active music and arts circle, a variety of authentic restaurants and a host of unique, locally owned shops.

Oden landed the job with Lee Street theatre and happily settled in Salisbury with his wife, Raquel Jackmond, and their four young sons, and he is delighted that his initial impression was right on target. “At 37 years of age, it’s time for me to settle in one place and not be all over the nation,” he explained.

Oden brings more than 15 years of experience to Lee Street theatre, having created artistic design for theatre productions from Los Angeles to New Orleans, in a variety of venues and genres. He most recently worked as Production Manager and Technical Director of the Jefferson Performing Arts Society in New Orleans and Technical Director of the Actors Guild of Parkersburg in Parkersburg, W.Va. At Lee Street theatre, he joins three other staff members: Artistic Director Craig Kolkebeck, Marketing Director Caitlin Billings and Business Manager David Carmichael.

As technical director, Oden plans to “fully challenge” himself with the black box space at Lee Street theatre. Since his previous experience was primarily in proscenium theater spaces and even modified movie theaters, he’s excited to explore how a black box frees him to stretch his capabilities. 

“The arts support in this city is out of this world, and Lee Street theatre is unlike theaters in cities this size,” Oden said. “I’ve done more musicals than I can count, but at Lee Street, they’re doing the ‘meat.’ It’s so invigorating for me. The black box allows you to… for lack of a better term… think outside the box. My designs have always been flat picture sets because that’s what I’ve worked in. I’m immediately challenged because, for the first time, I’m thinking totally three-dimensional.”

As Rowan County continues to brand itself with the tagline, “Be an original,” Oden looks forward to putting his original stamp on Lee Street theatre and creating experiences that will leave patrons with a sense of personal growth.

“The cool thing about live theatre is that it is always original,” he explains. “It delivers a very authentic and original experience for each person that only happens that night. Tomorrow’s performance of the same show will be different.”

Oden also looks forward to meeting the many volunteers who help Lee Street theatre successful, production after production. “I may feel my designs are original and my technical voice brings originality to my work, but I stand on the shoulders of the volunteers, and my work is only as good as all those who work with me.”

As a newcomer, Oden believes Salisbury’s originality stems from the same kind of cultural collaboration and community investment that makes local theater tick. By celebrating its history while looking to the future, Oden says, “Salisbury is saying, ‘It’s time to reinvent ourselves and bring new revitalization to the original message we had, but in a different time.'”