By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Shrewsbury – Complementing a longtime career as a visual artist of multiple media, Jackie Rezuke of Shrewsbury has volunteered her skills by painting stage sets for the town’s public high school musicals for a decade. Additionally, she’s in her ninth year volunteering as scenic artist for Shrewsbury’s community theater Regatta Players.
“My kids have the talent to perform onstage, but I don’t,” Rezuke noted. “Painting the sets allows me a chance to become involved, meet new people and help them out.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine and studio arts from Assumption College in 1984, she learned photo retouching on the job at Photographers Color Service in Worcester. She worked for 15 years beginning in 1986 for Winthrop Handy at Winthrop Studios in West Boylston. There, she did photo retouching and restoration, and painted oil portraits of retiring judges.
“When a judge would retire, I’d create an oil painting from a portrait that Winn had photographed,” she explained. “Every once in a while, I’ll notice these paintings when courthouse scenes are shown on television news programs.”
Rezuke continued working as a self-employed photographic artist from home so she could focus on raising her children Julie, John and Angela. After they began performing in musicals at Oak Middle School and Shrewsbury High School (SHS), she agreed to sew costumes for SHS’s 2008 production of “Once on This Island.”
“I had never realized what goes on behind the scenes,” Rezuke acknowledged. “While backstage, I saw people painting the sets and thought it looked like fun.”
The following year, she painted her first stage set for SHS’s “Seussical.” She has subsequently painted sets for the middle or high schools’ “All Shook Up,” “Anything Goes,” “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Cinderella,” “Legally Blonde,” “The Pajama Game,” “The Sound of Music” “Urinetown,” and “Willy Wonka.” Coming full circle, she’s helping this spring when SHS reprises “Seussical.”
Rezuke is an active member of Shrewsbury Schools Music/Theater Association, a nonprofit organization that helps support the district’s performance arts programs. In 2011, she accepted an invitation to get involved with Regatta Players from Bonnie Narcisi, a founding board member and now-retired Shrewsbury district director of music and drama.
In addition to designing Regatta’s logo, Rezuke volunteered as scenic artist for its productions of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “The Wedding Singer,” “First Date,” “9 to 5; the Musical” and “Shout!” Rezuke’s biggest challenge was last summer’s “Young Frankenstein,” for which she painted a detailed backdrop depicting the village of Transylvania.
“Painting that scene took up a good chunk of my summer,” she recalled. “It covered the entire backdrop, so I needed to be careful going up a high ladder to do parts of the scene.”
On a smaller scale, Rezuke painted a window-view of a vineyard for the set of Regatta’s first non-musical “Drinking Habits,” to be presented Friday, Feb. 15; Saturdays, Feb. 16 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. (snow date Friday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.). Performances will take place at Southgate at Shrewsbury’s Flanagan Theater, 30 Julio Dr.
In between volunteering and working as a photographic artist, Rezuke has been interior house painting since 2016 with This Gal, advertised as “an-all girl painting crew.”
“I have a hard time saying ‘no’ whenever people ask for my help,” Rezuke shared with a laugh. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve bit off more than I can chew, but I always manage to get through it. Then I’m always glad that I did get involved.”