If you’ve attended a community theater play or musical over the last several years in Bend, you’ve likely seen Gary Loddo’s work.
That is, you’ve seen the fruit of his labor. Since 2013, the British transplant has become the local theater community’s premiere set builder, fleshing out sets for theater companies including Cascades Theatrical Company, BEAT Children’s Theatre, Thoroughly Modern Productions and Mejaski Choreography & Productions.
Now, Loddo is set to do work on stage, debuting in his first fully staged production as part of the ensemble in “She Loves Me,” a romantic musical opening Friday at Cascades Theatre.
It’s not exactly his first time on a local stage, however. In January, the 50-year-old participated in a live script read of the movie “Die Hard.” He played German terrorist Hans Gruber, who in one scene of the 1988 film poses as an American to escape detection.
“Die Hard” had its challenges, Loddo said. “The toughest part of it was talking American because I can’t do an American accent. It’s the toughest thing to do an American accent, as a Brit. … I just couldn’t do it, and everyone was cracking up laughing.”
He declined to attempt an American accent during a recent interview.
“I’m very honest about my limitations,” he said, laughing, “And one of them is talking American.”
“Die Hard” was a one-night-only event, and it didn’t require him to learn choreography. “She Loves Me,” on the other hand, runs the next four weekends.
Loddo has two scenes. The first of them is a cafe scene called “Romantic Atmosphere.” The second is a Christmas sequence at the end of the show.
“The cafe scene, I thought I was just going to be sat at a table while it happens. Apparently that wasn’t the case,” he said, laughing. “(I’m) actually in the big dance number, which is the whole of the cafe scene. So I had to learn my choreography with Michelle Mejaski.”
“He’s doing great,” Mejaski said. “The cafe patrons start dancing and I have a Fosse-esque style to it, and a little salsa flare. He has grasped both so quickly.”
From soccer to stage
Loddo grew up in southern England. His preferred activity was soccer — his position was center midfielder. He played the game seriously for 30 injury-free years before double hip replacement sidelined him.
Although he was not a theater kid, the world of the stage was not far from his orbit. His mother had been a champion tap dancer, a fact that recently inspired him to study tap with Mejaski. His father, whom he adored, worked as a barman, or bartender, at a hotel next door to the Theatre Royal Brighton. Famous actors became bar regulars when performing.
“They always wanted to play at the Theatre Royal. It wasn’t the West End, but it was quite an elite thing,” Loddo said. “He’d have all the stars, and then he’d come home the next morning or something — he worked till late at night — and in the morning he’d tell me that he sat there talking to Roger Moore, Sean Connery or Elizabeth Taylor.”
Loddo fondly remembers how his mother would send him down to the bar when he was 6 or 7.
“It was more to be a pain to (Dad),” he said. “I used to sit there at lunch times, and sometimes celebrities used to come in. I’d sit there and he’d set me up at the bar or a table, and he’d get me something to eat. And I’d be around all the celebrities. … Eden Gardens, it was called, and it was a very elite restaurant and hotel.”
One day, he said, “Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were there, sat there having lunch. It was crazy. It was crazy times.”
When Loddo was 8, his mother moved out, taking his 2-year-old sister with her. Loddo and his older brother, meanwhile, lived with their father. Loddo is certain his father must have been heartbroken, but that was not apparent back then. His dad, whether flying kites or playing Ping-Pong, always made things fun.
After their father died when Loddo was 12, the boys moved in with their grandmother.
“She was old, so looking after two teenage boys was too much energy and stuff for her,” Loddo said. His brother began getting into trouble, and eventually went back to live with their mother.
“He kind of went the other way. I went into kind of a positive attitude, like, chose to do more positive stuff,” Loddo said.
When people ask how he held it together given all the loss he endured as a child, “It’s like, I think we all have a choice to react to things in our life. However bad they are. And I’ve always been good at looking around the world and being grounded by the plights of others,” he said. “This may have been bad, what happened to me in that moment — and it took time to heal, like people would guess — but I look at people in their suffering every day, and … I think I’m fortunate. It’s not like it was ever easy, because I was really close to my dad.”
Loddo feels blessed just to be here.
“I mean, I’m around. Any event that happens to me every day, I always find I try and see a positive in it. When I turn up at a coffee shop, they’re like, ‘Are you having a good day?’ and I’m like, ‘I always have a good day.’”
At 13, he began working part time for a TV and film rigging company. He left school and began working full time at 15. By 16, he had his first apartment.
“I grew up quick,” he said. “It was a case of having to.”
He stayed on with the rigging company, rigging scaffolding for dangerous access and then went into working in movies and TV, doing rigging on “Batman Begins,” a few of the Harry Potter movies, British soap operas and some seasons of “Dr. Who.”
Loddo developed a love of travel through his work and his frequent visits to his father’s extended family in Sardinia, Italy, where he has dozens of first cousins.
“It was easy from England, to access Europe,” he said. Work kept him busy, and he often did side work as a barman himself.
“I’d finish my day job, and then I’d go and work behind the bar in my local and stuff,” he said. “Being behind the bar … maybe that was a connection with my dad, me reflecting what my dad did.”
Loddo became a father in his 20s. His son, Joshua, 21, lives in Brighton, England. His daughter, Jade, 27, lives in Liverpool. She’s expecting a child at Christmastime, and grandfather-in-waiting Loddo plans to be there.
Back to school
In 2003, Loddo moved to Manchester, a working-class town in northwest England. Having long felt there was something he hadn’t done, he went back to school while continuing to work in rigging, earning his certification in counseling and psychotherapy.
“For five years I continually studied, because I had started loving learning,” he said.
About a decade ago, he visited Silver Falls, Oregon, for a counseling-related program, when he met a few people from Bend. He moved here soon after, and in 2010, launched Integrity Encompassed, a business serving people with disabilities. The organization has about 50 clients. The staff of 15 helps them with managing everyday affairs and get out into the community.
“That’s kept me here ever since,” he said. “I love it.”
In 2013 Loddo and one of his guys, which is how he refers to Integrity Encompassed clients, volunteered with painting on the set of “Spamalot,” by Stage Right Productions, a special production in partnership with the Tower Theatre.
“I was asked if I knew carpentry, or if I did it, and I started helping them build the castle in ‘Spamalot,’” he said. “It kind of just went from there.”
In 2014, he worked on the elaborate puppet musical “Avenue Q,” also a Stage Right show at the Tower. Thoroughly Modern Productions next tapped his talents,
In 2016, BEAT Children’s Theatre approached him about building the set of “Tarzan.”
“We communicated with him about helping out with the set building for ‘Tarzan,’ and he was excited about the show and the potential for the set,” recalled Bree Beal, executive director of the nonprofit BEAT. “He built the set for us, and then he actually worked with part of our set crew as well. He’s been doing pretty much every set for us since.”
At some point, “I became the go-to guy, I guess,” said Loddo, who has also built sets for some high school productions.
Two years ago, he joined BEAT’s board. About a year and a half ago, he helped implement a set apprentice program.
“We had a number of kids who were really interested in learning to design and build sets,” Beal said. They landed on a program with a curriculum in which kids could work on a short from the start, taking part in design conversations, building and painting sets. Once the show opens, the kids work in the crew backstage.
“I kind of love doing stuff for the kids, so that became a real call for me,” Loddo said. “The talent there is crazy. It’s so good. And the joy … you see they find a sense of belonging, whereas they may not in cliques at school, or outside. But they do find it in theater. For some reason, they find that sense of belonging, they find that place. Full acceptance.”
Beal is eager to see Loddo’s scenes in “She Loves Me.”
“I am so excited,” she said. “I have seen Gary be a support person for everybody on stage for so long. It’s really exciting that he gets to be the person on stage this time.”
Summer, fall theater
Loddo has a busy summer ahead. Along with building the set for, and appearing in, “She Loves Me,” he’ll be building the set for Mejaski’s Theater in the Park production of “La Cage Aux Folles.”
Loddo doesn’t plan to stop performing, either. He recently earned a prominent role in Thoroughly Modern Productions’ presentation of “Mamma Mia!” coming to the Tower in September.
Loddo won the part of Harry Bright — the character Colin Firth played in the film version of the musical structured around the songs of Abba.
“He’s Harry Headbanger, isn’t he?” Loddo said. “So I caught the lead in that, which is going to be more challenging because obviously there’s going to be a lot more singing, a lot more acting and dancing. And I’m doing the set.”
A self-described hard worker, Loddo spends most of his free time building sets.
“He is very proud of his craft, and when he builds a set, he really wants to be proud of what he’s created,” Mejaski said. “He knows that he needs to make these sets to be the director’s vision, but along with his own creativity. And he’s so trustworthy as far as letting him do what he envisions. Part of what makes him tick is having that quality.”
And now he has to fit in rehearsals, too.
“Every bit of my spare time is theater, and I enjoy it,” he said. Loddo said that in the world of community theater, he’s found more than just a volunteer outlet.
“I’ve found a really big sense of family,” he said. “I have so many people that I really count as close as family.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0349, email@example.com
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, the status of Loddo’s business, Integrity Encompassed, was misidentified. The Bulletin regrets the error.