Wednesday, October 31, 2012

PART 3 OF 3: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOEY LANDWEHR, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF J*COMPANY

Joey with Rebecca Myers (Fanny Brice) in rehearsal for "Funny Girl."

How did you come up with the idea of a “Streisand Season”? 

When I first walked in the door in February 2006, I knew then that I wanted to do this season.  To me, there wasn’t a question…I knew this must happen.  As Artistic Director, I was the first to bring in themes to our seasons - the second season I was here we did a “Disney” season and the third year we did a “Going Green” season, and then we did our “Rodgers and Hammerstein” season, and last season was our 18th year so we did a whole Jewish themed season, which had never been done here before.  They’ve been around for 18 years and they’ve never done a Jewish-themed season?  And it takes the “Goi” to put it together!?  [laughs]  I guess people just don’t think about that.  And then, of course, last season was our tribute to the La Jolla Playhouse and then this season we walk into Ms. Streisand. 

While I’ve wanted to do this for some time, I didn’t know exactly which shows I wanted to do.  We looked at On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and we looked at I Can Get It For You Wholesale.  So I had to weight things out in terms of what was going to sell tickets, as well as what the kids would garner from it.  I actually wrote to the Streisand Foundation and asked if they would partner with us for the season and they were very generous in saying “we are so honored that you’re doing this, thank you for using her name and paying tribute.”  I’ve also invited her out to see the shows in our season … like she’s really gonna come! [laughs]   But one can hope. 

I’ve been such a Streisand fanatic my whole life.  From growing up in rural Missouri, my parents were a little backwoods and a little redneck-y, and I grew up in a double wide trailer.  I was the first person to graduate high school in my entire family and I was the first person to ever think of leaving Missouri.  So I remember listening to Barbara Streisand as a 14 year old and my parents kept saying “why are you listening to that long hair?”  Long hair is a term for classical music.  They thought I was all hoity-toity because I was listening to “classical music.”  I’m like, Barbara Streisand is not classical music! [laughs]  But to them it was because it wasn’t Tennessee Ernie Ford and Theresa Brewer and all those banjo playing singers. 

I knew this was Barbara’s 70th birthday and all the stars just aligned.  This year is J*Company’s 20th anniversary, my 40th birthday, it is her 70th birthday, it is my Executive Producer’s 50th birthday.  Clearly, something is telling me this is the right time to do it.  And everything just sort of came about as it should have.  It was a relatively easy season to put together it just sort of laid itself out in front of me. And when I presented it to my committee, they said great without even a bat of an eye.  I mean she’s sort of the patron saint of Judaism ... if there is one [laughs]! 




This season: Which show do you think will be the most fun?  Which will be the most challenging?

Well, the most fun is going to be Hello, Dolly!  It just lends itself to it.  With a Jerry Herman score, how can you go wrong!?  He’s brilliant.  I got to meet him in New York when they were doing his show Showtune and I was like, “I love you!” [laughs]  He was the nicest man.  As far as the most challenging, I think probably the other three shows have their own challenges.  Funny Girl is just massive.  There is nothing small about it and there’s no way to do it small.  Yentl has its own challenges in that the subject matter is on the heavy side and it’s a little adult.  So we have to really watch how we handle this with our 10-18 year olds.  And then Gypsy has its own challenges as well because - in my eyes - I see it as this beautiful story about a mother and her daughters and how everything changes around them.  But, I think in many ways, the parents see Gypsy as just a show about strippers.  And that’s not what it is about.  So my own work with that will be to present it in a way that people will come to see it. 



Where would you like to see J*Company in 5-10 years from now?

I hope that we continue to grow.  I would love more than ever to have a blackbox theatre.  Because our space here is a large 500 seat theatre, I would love to be able to do some more intimate plays that really aren’t these huge mongo musicals.  We could do plays like The Laramie Project.  And we could do some darker, more intimate things.  And I would love to at some point - when our building isn’t bursting at the seams - put together a conservatory training program for our kids.  Because education is so key to me. I think many times youth theatres are created for the wrong reasons: either as easy pocket money or as easy ways to promote a director’s artistic vision and feed their ego.  Those are not reasons to create a children’s theatre.  In my opinion, the reason for children’s theatre is to help young people grow and to educate them in what they’re doing.  So, to have a conservatory here to train these young people to help them grow in theatre and in other arts would be so amazing. 

For more information about J*Company, visit: http://www.sdcjc.org/jc/

Friday, October 26, 2012

PART 2 OF 3: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOEY LANDWEHR, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE J*COMPANY

Joey Landwehr

How did you end up in San Diego?

My partner and I met in 2000, just before the 9/11 attacks, and we were living in Brooklyn just over the river.  When the towers fell – we could see the towers from our apartment window – the whole scheme of New York changed.  And having been there for so many years, I felt it was time for me to find something different, something that really gives me some fulfillment instead of living from paycheck to paycheck and going from show to show and waiting tables in between. 

My partner was getting a little disenchanted with New York as well.  He said if he ever moved away, San Francisco and San Diego were the only places he would ever go.  So, we flew out here the summer after the 9/11 attacks and I got off the plane and said, “I’m home.”  And I never thought I would be a “California person” because I had never been to California and always thought of California as that fake, botox-filled place and it drove me a little batty to think of it.  But when I stepped off the plane in San Diego, I thought “wow this has so much potential and there is so much already here I wanted to be a part of.” 

That being said, that year I decided I would come out for pilot season because I had my SAG card and my AFTRA card, so I thought I’d sort of feel it out and see what’s going on.  And I remember I was taking an acting class I can’t remember exactly what the scene was but I was paired up with this beautiful lady with beautiful red hair and we were doing this scene about her father having raped her.  It was a very emotional scene and she was doing the lines like she was in a hamburger commercial.  I, on the other hand, was really getting into it and so the instructor stopped us halfway through and she – pointing to me - goes, “you, you’re from New York right?  We don’t do that here in LA.”  And I about fell out of my chair.  That’s when I knew LA is not the place for me.  [laughs]  Perhaps San Francisco and San Diego were better options. 

Then my partner got a great job working at Rady Children’s Hospital and so we came out here to San Diego.  I had no prospects and I was very lucky Alan Ziter at the SD Performing Arts League hired me as a temp doing office management and then within the next few years I became member services director.  It was the perfect way to jump into the theatre scene here because I got to know everybody in town.  Then, Becky Cherlin Baird - who was the artistic director at the J*Company before me - was leaving the job to start a family and I happened to see her at a taping at NBC.  I told her, “I want your job …what do I need to do?”  And she said give me your resume and we’ll see what happens.  So I went through a bazillion different interviews and I was very lucky to be given this, my dream job. 

That’s great.  What year did you start working here?

2006 was my first year here.

Joey in rehearsal for "Fiddler on the Roof" in 2010.

Take me through the process you go through selecting musicals for each season.  Other than being kid-friendly, what do you look for when choosing shows?

I have a fantastic, amazing committee that’s an integral part of the J*Company and I have one of the most amazing Executive Producers you could ever ask for, Monica Handler Penner.  I bring things to her that I might be a little weary of.  Inevitably, it always comes around to Monica asking me if I think this is right for our children.  And if I say “yes,” she says “I trust you and I know it will be great.”  So, it is wonderful that she trusts me, as does my committee and the Board of Directors and the Executive Staff here.

I think I’ve worked very hard to gain that trust.  I mean, they still wonder sometimes [laughs] but every year they are very pleased with the outcome.  And I’m very proud to say that for the first 13 years here, they were in the red trying to establish themselves and ever since I walked in the door I’m so proud to say that we’ve been in the black.  And we’ve never looked back.  And or budget gets bigger every year and we grow with the numbers of our kids and our audiences and it is very exciting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

PART 1 OF 3: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOEY LANDWEHR, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE J*COMPANY

Everything’s Coming Up Streisand For Joey Landwehr and the J*Company

By Donnie Matsuda

Joey Landwehr has been the Artistic Director for J*Company Youth Theatre for the past six years, putting his innovative artistic stamp on the theatre company’s award winning and ambitious musicals.  Prior to his tenure as head of the “J*Co” (as it is affectionately referred to by many), Joey worked for several years as a professional actor and director in New York City, working on and off Broadway, singing and dancing on national tours, performing in regional theatre, and even soloing at Carnegie Hall.  He’s trained with some of the biggest names in the biz, including Betty Buckley, Marcel Marceau, Twyla Tharpe and Patti LuPone, and has had the privilege of working with such greats as Phyllis Diller, Sam Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, Victoria Mallory, Joel Grey, Kaye Ballard, Michael Feinstein and the late Howard Keel.  As Joey gets ready to lead his youth theatre company into its 20th Season (a tribute to the legendary Barbara Streisand), he sat down with me to chat about his childhood growing up in the backwoods of St. Louis, his reasons for moving to San Diego, his process for putting together the company’s “Streisand Season,” and his hopes and dreams for the future of J*Company.

Joey Landwehr
How does a young boy growing up in rural Missouri get involved in musical theatre? 

Well, growing up in a rural town in Missouri, I was planning to be a minister.  Especially when you get to know me, you’ll be, “like, what!?!”  [Laughs]  I think most of it was because that’s what my mother wanted and I wanted to please her.  I went to Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, TN in between my junior and senior year of high school and it was an experience I’ll never forget.  I was there and I was thinking, “this is beautiful, but I don’t really know why I’m here.”  Then I realized half way through that I didn’t really want to preach the word, I just wanted to be on stage and tell people what to do!  [laughs]  I always loved theatre and I was always singing in church but I never thought of it as an actual job or a career.  It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that I went, oh there’s a whole genre and there’s something you can do onstage.  And that’s when I discovered theatre and realized that I had this love for it. 

Growing up, I was a rotund boy with a 44 inch waist, weighing about 260 lbs.  And my sister was going on a date with a guy that knew John Goodman and they knew I was starting to get into theatre so they introduced me to him.  I asked him if this is something I want to pursue, what should I do and where do I go?  And he said the first thing you need to do is lose the weight.  And literally, that summer I went from 260 lbs to 170lbs.  He was such an inspiration.  He spoke so eloquently and I remember his thunderous laugher.  He was so jovial and wonderful and that’s when I started thinking maybe this is something I could do. 

I went to undergrad at a little liberal arts college and thought I would have teaching as a background and something to fall back on and then I realized no, if I’m going to do this I need to go full out.  I wanted to experience it all the way or not experience it at all.  So I just jumped in with both feet and never looked back. 

I have to assume from your impressive bio that you’ve spent a lot of time in New York.  How many years were you there?  Did you get to do any Broadway or Off-Broadway shows?  What’s the most important lesson or piece of advice you took away from your time in the Big Apple?

I was in New York from 1997-2003.  On Broadway, I did a little stint in The Secret Garden and then did the national tour which was a lot of fun.  I also did the national tour of the The Wizard of Oz with Phyllis Diller and the national tour of George M with Joel Grey.  I also took classes from Betty Buckley.  I had already been through undergrad and grad school at Ohio State and when I burst onto the New York scene, I didn’t know where to start.  I discovered that Betty was giving acting classes and I said I just want to try this out and see if I’m missing something that I didn’t learn in college.  She was such an incredible teacher that I took classes from her for three years.  She taught me so much about the process of theatre much more than the product.  Whereas in college, I think they were getting me ready for the product of theatre: how to get the show and how to market myself.  Whereas Betty taught me to find the underlying aspects of theatre, the exciting parts where you could really delve into characters. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

THEATRE REVIEW: "Kita y Fernanda" at Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company

“Kita y Fernanda” a Spellbinding Success:
Four Phenomenal Actresses.  Two Languages.  One Powerful Play.
By Donnie Matsuda

While there are no visible lines drawn anywhere on the Mo`olelo stage, “Kita y Fernanda,” the final play in the socially-conscious theatre company’s 2012 season, has a lot to say about living life on two different sides of a border.   

Gabriela Trigo and Cynthia Bastidas.  Photo by Crissy Pascual.
Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that the play begins in a large crowd – a Chicago rally for immigrant rights – in which we meet the title characters of the play, Kita and Fernanda, as adult 30-somethings just trying to “fit in” to the American way of life while still fighting for the rights of those outsiders on the “other” sides of our national borders.  After decades apart, these two women finally see each other, or at least they think they see each other, but ultimately get lost in the crowd and don’t connect.  On the surface, it seems like a trite way to begin a poignant play about two girls’ sweeping bicultural journey from childhood friends to more cynical, knowing adults.  But when we finally see how this remarkable journey finally ends, in a gripping final scene that will tear at your heart and leave you in tears, it all makes complete sense.   

Olivia Espinosa and Cynthia Bastidas.  Photo by Crissy Pascual.
While Kita and Fernanda appear to share quite a bit – they are both Mexican nationals living in the U.S. with mothers who don’t speak a word of English – we begin to see they couldn’t be more different.  As we constantly flashback from the modern-day rally to various scenes in their childhood, we get more than just a few glimpses into the many borders that divide them.  Fernanda (a dynamic Gabriela Trigo) is the privileged daughter of a rich Mexican family living in McAllen, Texas, who believes in the power of learning English, the importance of fitting in, and the essential commodity of blinged-out Barbie dolls.  While she and her overly medicated and agoraphobic mother Doña (a polished and poised Melba Novoa) are legal immigrants, they remain trapped as prisoners in their lavish Texas mansion – a simple plywood box set by scenic designer David F. Weiner – without any connection to the outside, English-speaking world.  Their only link to humanity is through their live-in maid, a poor, undocumented immigrant named Concha (a warm Olivia Espinosa, who does triple duty as hilarious Valley girl Jessica and stoned out beach bum Chela) and her daughter, Kita (a courageous Cynthia Bastidas).  Kita, of course, is a fierce firecracker who is proud of her hard-working, Spanish-speaking heritage and pooh-poohs the Barbies in favor of Cabbage Patch dolls.

Through the course of their difficult and divided friendship, Kita and Fernanda do share a number of funny and heartfelt moments.  That’s largely due to the perfectly poignant writing of playwright Tanya Saracho, who knows how to capture the essence of her four characters with equal parts humor and humanity.  True, there is a significant amount of dialogue in Spanish (about a third of the play, with one entire scene exclusively “en Español”), but thanks to Seema Sueko and Robert Castro’s smart and sensitive direction, it is easy to surrender to the Spanish and still understand exactly what is going on.  And, if there are still some scenes that leave you a little lost, well, that is part of the playwright’s point: to put us in the shoes of the outsider and make us feel the uneasiness and confusion of being a non-English speaking minority in America.

Cynthia Bastidas and Gabriela Trigo.  Photo by Crissy Pascual.
At the end of the play, there’s a lot to think about.  And in Mo`olelo’s beautifully crafted and brilliantly acted production, there’s also a lot to admire and enjoy.  “Kita y Fernanda” is an experience like no other: it is a whirlwind journey that will sweep you off your feet, tug relentlessly at your heartstrings, make you laugh out loud, and shake your moral and intellectual core.  It is a must-see for any theatre-goer who wants to be moved, inspired, and challenged.

Things to know before you go: Kita y Fernanda presented by Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company plays at The 10th Avenue Theatre through October 21, 2012.  Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.  For more information or to purchase tickets, call (619) 342-7395 or visit www.moolelo.net.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

THEATRE REVIEWS: "Jekyll & Hyde" at Broadway SD and "The Exit Interview" at San Diego REP

Wild vs. Wacky
By Donnie Matsuda

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing two very unconventional pieces of theatre.  One was a wild ride and the other was a wacky one.  Here are my reviews of the Broadway-bound premiere of “Jekyll and Hyde” at Broadway San Diego and the rolling premiere of “The Exit Interview” at San Diego REP.

“Jekyll & Hyde” a Wild Ride


He’s a tough one to like, that Dr. Jekyll. So is his evil alter ego, Edward Hyde.

The same can be said for the new Broadway-bound musical that unites the two prickly personalities under one title.  The Nederlander-produced “Jekyll and Hyde,” which kicked off its multi-city tour here in San Diego before it ends up on the Great White Way in 2013, definitely has its mood swings.  At times, it can be thrilling and electrifying with its soaring anthems and incredible voices, thanks largely to the devilish machinations of Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis and the raspy, earthy tones of Grammy-nominated R&B Superstar Deborah Cox.  But then, the whole thing kind of derails in parts when the propulsive (though mostly unmemorable) new Frank Wildhorn score achieves ear-shattering levels and the ensemble cast screams through incomprehensible lyrics, all the while larger-than-life projections of fire engulf the stage.  It is those moments that are the hardest to bear, and one can only wonder what purpose they are to serve here.  Perhaps they are intended to add an edgy, rock-concert vibe to the proceedings, or perhaps they are meant to add more melodrama to an already overly self-indulgent spectacle.  Or perhaps they are just experimental filler. 

Regardless, there are still some redeeming elements in this breakthrough revival, which itself is quite different than the original 1990 concept album (featuring Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder) and the original Broadway production (which played the Plymouth Theatre from 1997-2001, featuring Robert Cuccioli and Linda Eder).  The story, which is supposed to be based on the acclaimed Robert Louis Stevenson novella about a London doctor who accidentally unleashes his evil alternate persona while trying to cure his father’s illness, has shifted focus here.  Now, the plot features the five members of the Board of Directors at a London hospital: a snide bishop (David Benoit), a foolish general (Aaron Ramey), a righteous Lord (Brian Gallagher), a clueless Lady (Blair Ross), and a Sir (Mel Johnson, Jr.).  As we see them pompously perched on their thrones evenly spaced across the stage proscenium – some evocative staging by Broadway director and Old Globe favorite Jeff Calhoun – there’s an almost palpable sense of revenge bubbling in the “good” doctor’s veins as his proposal to use a new serum on human subjects is flatly denied. 

Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis in "Jekyll & Hyde."  Courtesy of Broadway SD.
Instead, the “good” doctor takes matters into his own hands (or is it veins?) as he returns to his laboratory and hooks himself up to some uber-cool, color-changing tubes filled with enough of a mysterious bubbly potion to completely alter his entire sense of self.  The spectacles come off, the hair grows long and unruly, and the murder-hungry Hyde emerges ready to seek revenge.  It is only a matter of a few bloody minutes - in a heart-pounding Act 2 opener - before we see the same Board of Directors get disposed of one by one, eventually perched up on their deathbeds in place of their thrones.  Fortunately, that’s not all there is to the story (or else it would make for a very short second act!).  There’s a much-needed second plotline that involves Jekyll’s soon to be wife, a pure-as-snow Emma Carew (a gloriously voiced Teal Wicks) and the other woman in the doctor’s life, his lustful prostitute Lucy (a gritty Deborah Cox).  While this intriguing love triangle ends up going nowhere very quickly, it at least provides for some of the show’s best songs: a soaring “This is the Moment” in Act 1 and a stirring “In His Eyes” in Act 2.

Much of the show’s edgy steampunk vibe is sharply enhanced by its technical wizardry.  Kudos to scenic designer Tobin Ost who works wonders constructing a dark, barren, and hazy feel to the proceedings, with massive cinematic set pieces all framed by a moving proscenium arch outlined in bold neon lights.  Ost also provides some exquisite high-society get-ups that are appropriate for 19th century London and his entire design scheme is eerily lit by Jeff Croiter’s lights and set in motion by Daniel Brodie’s splashy projections. Sound designer Ken Travis keeps it all surprisingly well balanced, though there are times that the shrill-sounding 11-piece orchestra clashes with the screaming and screechy voices to effect a few “nails on a chalkboard” moments.  

So, much like its dually conflicted title character, there are both “good” and “bad” elements of this “Jekyll & Hyde.”  With explosive voices, over-the-top characters, and dynamic staging, it is probably best to just surrender to this overdone, self-indulgent spectacle and enjoy its dark and wild side.


“The Exit Interview” a Wacky Ride

What do you get when you mix together a couple of socially and politically savvy cheerleaders, a slick Fox News reporter with a penchant for too much makeup, a well-meaning but smug HR director grappling with the age old question of “why, God, why?”, two German mothers engaged in endless “small talk,” an oboe-obsessed ex-girlfriend with a fanatical right-wing mother, a product-placement pushing priest, and an agnostic university professor who specializes in the works of Bertolt Brecht? 

Well, in the opinion of those of us who see plays for their logical progression and thoughtful/insightful exploration of ideas via well-timed thematic arcs, the short answer would be a total theatrical mess.  But in the case of “The Exit Interview,” William Missouri Down’s satirical examination of faith and fate in the 21st century, things don’t come off as terribly disorganized as they sound.  Okay, perhaps they do, but that’s part of the point here.   You see, Down’s takes a Brechtian approach to his storytelling, allowing for a number of dramatic turns in which he (shown via video feed riding his horse or working in his “office” smack dab in the middle of a forest somewhere in the Midwest) stops the show and changes the script as it is being performed, frequently inserting totally random scenes in Brecht’s native Germanic tongue.  And, in order to fully expose the process rather than the product, Downs ensures that the stagehands are always visible and that they enact intentionally clumsy and abrupt scene changes.  Lucky for us, in case we need any help with this Brechtian break away from “realism,” we have an expert in the field, fictional college professor Dick Fig (an easygoing Herbert Siguenza) whose exit interview with HR director Eunice (a hare-brained Linda Libby) tries to provide some thematic continuity to the entire piece.

The Cast of "The Exit Interview."  Courtesy SD REP.
It all comes together as a wacky series of Saturday Night Live comedy sketches, thanks to the (mostly) funny material and absurd characters provided by Downs, the spitfire direction by REP Co-Founder and Artistic Director Sam Woodhouse, and the ace cast of six actors who seamlessly morph into a number of kooky supporting characters that keep the comedic charade going.  Particularly impressive are JoAnne Glover and Lisel Gorell-Getz who work their pom-poms while cheering about existential angst; Fran Gercke as a parish priest who pushes the divine enjoyment of Diet Coke while, well, it is not quite clear what his role in the show is; and Nick Cagle as a preening Fox News reporter who is only concerned about his image…and about pushing his right-wing agenda.

Without a doubt, you will leave the theatre scratching your head and wondering “what does it all mean?”  And that’s the point of this world premiere piece, which is the second of five “rolling” premieres which are occurring all over the U.S. under the auspices of the National New Play Network.  In true Brechtian fashion, it’s not about the messy process of the play itself: it’s about the meaningful discussions about religion, sex, and politics that it engenders on the car ride home.

So, gather your most liberal and intellectual of friends and get ready to take in all the craziness!

Things to know before you go: Jekyll & Hyde presented by Broadway San Diego played at The San Diego Civic Theatre at 3rd and B Street from October 2 – 7, 2012.  Running time was 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 20 minute intermission.  Ticket prices vary.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit TicketMaster.com, call (888) 937-8995, or visit www.BroadwaySD.com.

Things to know before you go: The Exit Interview presented by San Diego REP plays in the Lyceum Space at Lyceum Theatre through October 21, 2012.  Running time is 2 hours 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.  For more information or to purchase tickets, call (619) 544-1000 or visit www.sdrep.org.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

AN INTERVIEW WITH J*COMPANY ARTISTIC DIRECTOR JOEY LANDWEHR IN GAY SAN DIEGO


Check out my interview with Joey Landwehr ("Everything's coming up Streisand") as his J*Company prepares to kick off the first production of their “Streisand Season” on October 19.  In our conversation, Joey and I talked about his upbringing in Missouri, his time spent “pounding the pavement” in NYC, his transition here to San Diego, and his process of putting together the J*Company’s 20th Anniversary Season.  The interview (on page 4) is in the current edition of Gay San Diego, which is on newsstands now!

Friday, October 5, 2012

PART 4 OF 4: AN INTERVIEW WITH KATHY BROMBACHER


Kathy and Marie Ertel, project director for the city of Vista and supervisor of the construction of the new Moonlight Amphitheatre stage house, which was completed in 2009.  Photo by Pam Kragen.

Shifting gears a bit, how did you meet your husband, Robert C. Brombacher, DDS?  

I was living in Oceanside and one of my friends was a dental hygienist.  She and I would go jogging and then we ended up having potlucks and things with our friends and colleagues, and that’s how I met my husband - through her - because she worked with him as a dentist.  

My husband is originally from LA, went to San Francisco Dental School, and he and his partner started their dental practice here in Vista because of his cousin who lived in Encinitas at the time.  His cousin had said this is a beautiful area, you should think about it, come down and drive around, see where all the golf courses are (my husband was a golfer from when he was age 13), etc.  And so he came down because of family and relocated here to start his business.

Is he involved in the Moonlight business at all?

At one time, he was the treasurer of the Vista Foundation (which was the original nonprofit that built the theatre and they are now known as the Moonlight Cultural Foundation).  He actually acted in the first show we ever did up here: “Oliver!”  He was convinced to do the role of Dr. Grimwig, which is a tiny role.  When Oliver passes out and gets sick, he is taken in by a wealthy man who brings the doctor in to see how Oliver is doing.  And that was a role that my husband took on because I was completely out of men who would volunteer to do the role! [laughs]  So, he did that one role and he said “I’ve had enough.  I now know what it takes and I appreciate it, but I do not need to be onstage ever again!”  [laughs]  And from then on, he supported us from backstage, as a corporate sponsor, as a patron, and on our Board.

As the founder and artistic director of Moonlight, what achievement or production during your 32 year tenure are you most proud of?

Wow…that’s a hard one.  It’s a tie for “Les Miserables” and “Ragtime.”  Both of them were acquired as productions that had not been produced by regional musical theatre in our area before.  With “Les Miserables” we went in on it with another theatre company in northern California to co-build … they actually built the set and sent it down and we rented the turntable to make everything work.  

Moonlight's "Les Miz" in 2008.  Photo courtesy of Ken Jacques.
So “Les Miz” you would say is more of a technical achievement…

Yes, it was a technical achievement.  And then “Ragtime” was just a remarkable show to be able to produce.  Again, collaboration has been something that I’m really proud of.  For that show, we collaborated with Musical Theatre of Wichita to get a touring set brought through.  

What was particularly special about “Ragtime”?  Would you say it’s the biggest artistic achievement of all the shows that you’ve done?

I think it was one of the big ones for us.  In terms of recognition of the work and we had an incredible artistic team.  Our choreographer, Paul David Bryant, had done the show on Broadway with the original artistic cast and sat through all the sessions with Graciela Daniele about the origins of the music and the dance.  And it is just a beautiful piece of theatre.  So to have the chance to do that with an incredible artistic and technical team … it was a glorious time of creation.    

Moonlight's "Ragtime" in 2002.  Photo by Moonlight Archives.
Where do you hope to see Moonlight in 10 years from now?

I hope in ten years that Moonlight is very healthy: that it is continuing to produce the size musicals that we’ve been able to produce.  And hopefully doing a combination of beloved classics and premieres of new work.  I think every theatre has to keep bringing in new work, new titles, and new thinking to the forefront in order to evolve.  Theatre needs to evolve with the society.  What we were doing 10 and 15 years ago and what our audiences most wanted to see was not what they’re wanting to see right now.  Our audiences want to see the new titles, but they also want to see beloved favorites like “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Anything Goes.”  To get a younger audience in, we need to do our “Legally Blonde's", we need to do a very different, younger version of “Sweeney Todd.”  I very much believe that the company needs to stay flexible.  And sometimes that means doing – as we did last year – a couple of very small shows in order to make your budget work.  It is part of being in these economic times and if you call it recession or just a bump in the road … it’s just what everyone goes through.  So I hope that Moonlight will be the theatre that is not closing because we weren’t thinking ahead and because we weren’t budget conscious.  And that is not to say that any theatre wants to be in that position.  It’s just that smart choices have to be made everywhere.  

I also hope there will be more youth theatre that is healthy in this community and that Moonlight will continue to support that.  Kids are both our audience members and our performers of tomorrow.  And for that, you have to have arts education, you have to have young people in fine programs in dance and voice and such.  I hope that will continue to grow and flourish and feed what Moonlight is.  

Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years from now?

I hope to continue to be engaged in the action of producing theatre.  It may not be at this theatre, but I have some titles that I have my eye on that I’d like to be engaged with.  I also want to support Moonlight in any way I can, whether that means serving on the Board of the Moonlight Cultural Foundation or fundraising or speaking in the community … I want to be an advocate for Moonlight.  And possibly for other arts organizations in our County.    

Thank you, Kathy, for your time and talent in bringing the magic of musical theatre via Moonlight! 

Bravo and Farewell, Kathy!  Photo by John Koster.