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Announcing Boston Court’s New Executive Director

25-kyle-clausen-2016_smallBOSTON COURT PERFORMING ARTS CENTER NAMES KYLE CLAUSEN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

January 25, 2017 – Following an extensive nationwide search, Boston Court Performing Arts Center Board Chair Sarah Lyding announced today that Mr. Kyle Clausen will join the organization as its Executive Director, bringing dynamic new leadership to the acclaimed Pasadena cultural institution.

“At an important time in Boston Court’s history, Kyle joins us with strong leadership skills, experience working for various arts organizations we admire, as well as a personal passion for both music and theatre,” said Lyding.  “His vision, business acumen and track record of success are exactly what Boston Court needs as we enter our next chapter, which I am confident will be even more impactful and artistically adventurous than our last.”

Clausen said, “I am delighted to assume this leadership role at Boston Court, and work with Artistic Directors Jessica Kubzansky, Michael Michetti, and Mark Saltzman as well as the strong board and staff whose incredible work has made a name for Boston Court over the past 13 years.  This is an exciting time in the organization’s evolution, and I look forward to continuing and building upon the company’s commitment to new work and artistic excellence.”

Kyle Clausen currently serves as Director of Marketing and Patron Services at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts (LBC), a multi-disciplinary arts center located in Santa Rosa, California that presents a wide-range of performances, innovative education programs, and myriad community events.  At  LBC, Clausen has been responsible for a substantial increase in both earned and contributed revenue, including the highest levels of ticket sales in the organization’s 35-year history. Prior to LBC, Clausen served as Managing Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC), a classical repertory theatre company in residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he oversaw a significant growth in subscriptions, led a reshaping of the company’s patron service philosophy, and expanded SSC’s programming to Silicon Valley.  He has also held positions in marketing with Mixed Blood Theatre and the Children’s Theatre Company, both of Minneapolis, and began his career as a pianist and music director with more than 40 theatrical productions to his credit. Clausen holds a degree in Art History and Music from the University of Minnesota.

Clausen’s appointment concludes a nationwide search that was launched by the Boston Court Board of Directors in September 2016, in conjunction with KGI Advisors, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm. A search committee was formed, and after a thorough interview process, the board of directors unanimously approved Clausen’s appointment in December 2016.  Clausen will join Boston Court Performing Arts Center full-time onFebruary 20, 2017.

Boston Court Performing Arts Center’s 2017 season begins with The Theatre @ Boston Court’s production of Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Boops(February 18 – March 19), and Music @ Boston Court’s Winter Series (February 17 – March 18).  More information can be found at BostonCourt.com.

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On Vulgarity

by Dolores Quintana

What offends you? Is it a word,  a concept, or a work of art?

Human society has rules and woe to the person who breaks those rules. Shame, ridicule and side eyes will be flung at the interloper who dares flout the tenets of polite behavior. But when you are talking about art, why is this necessary? Art exists to pour light on taboo subjects and issues that society refuses to deal with adequately as well as entertain and thrill audiences. It is a form of communication that can put our own touchy subjects in fantasy constructs to make it easier for us to deal with them and eventually fix them.

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This year, The Theatre @ Boston Court presented a play with a title that had a curse word in it, Stupid Fucking Bird. Wigs were flipped. One of the myriad reasons why theater has a weaking grip on the cultural landscape is because much of what is produced theatrically is unchallenging, staid, and recycled material that aims strictly for the lowest common denominator. What is confounding about the situation is the reaction to a very small vulgarity that created a big brouhaha. What upset people most? The themes of suicide or the shallowness and self delusion of people who consider themselves to be artists? No, the word: fuck. My theory about profanity is that if you do it, as an adult, you should be able to say it or type it. But even in 2014, I see full grown adults using substitute words in daily conversation or while using social media on The Internet. If you are angry, what’s wrong with expressing yourself in what you find to be an appropriate manner? If you cuss like a sailor in real life, why type “Frack” when you really mean Fuck? Do you imagine small children are reading your Twitter feed?  A well known comedian said it pretty succinctly. When you say the substitute word, everyone knows what you are saying. The brains of people receiving the sensory input instantly translate it. You just said the word to everyone anyway. You simply lack the courage to say what you really mean.


They are just words. They have only the meaning and heft that we give them.

Additionally, one of the tools of the artist is to deploy shock and outrage to open the way for new thinking in its audience. Shock value. There are whole schools of thought within theater devoted to it. Hello Antonin Artaud. When you see something that disgusts, angers, or confuses you, your defenses go down, even if it is just a tiny rolling down of the window. It is increasingly used badly and irresponsibly but the guru of shock John Waters has used it for his entire career and has made great inroads in mainstream American culture for the acceptance of weirdos. It’s a big club that thwacks you over the head and makes you pay attention to things you normally would ignore. It works. Example: one of the things that society recommends to its people is travel. Travel and broaden your horizons, they say. It means when you live in one city or town and hang around with a small set of people that you are comfortable with and never go out in the world and meet people and cultures different from you, you will remain boring and conservative for the rest of your life. Your thought processes become set and you stop learning about new things and figuring out that things you don’t understand shouldn’t necessarily frighten you. As H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. Lovecraft would know as his own upbringing was responsible for his own fears.  Refusing to face things that make you uncomfortable makes the fear that much stronger and make you that much more of a small minded human with a low ceiling on their life and outlook. In other words, the type of person who usually only attends revivals of well known plays and jukebox musicals on tour from Broadway.

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As with most everything else, intent is what matters. When a bigot or racist uses words to shame and hurt people, that is a deplorable and hideous use of language. That is wrong.  But when a playwright or actor uses the word to expose violent and cruel behavior of those types of cowards, it’s done to expose the hypocrisy and hatred in their hearts. Do not make the mistake of confusing the two in a knee jerk reaction. You were born with the ability to discern the difference. The more you do it, the better you will become at recognizing one from the other.

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Routine and rote are deadly for the progression of human society and human thought.  You should also know that Stupid Fucking Bird was also one the the best selling shows to date at The Theatre @ Boston Court. Bravery in art is sometimes rewarded.  Polite behavior and societal rules exist for good reasons, but we can never let the rules crush the human spirit and the wonder of art, theater and the human experience. Check out things that make you uncomfortable and plays outside your experience. Growth is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. But that’s how you know you are progressing. Putting blinders on might make you feel safe, but it is at the expense of becoming the person you could be.

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The Do-what-you-want Fundraiser

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An open letter to Vanity Fair from a theatre fan

By Damaris Montalvo

Dear Vanity Fair,

On April 10, you published a review of For the Record: Tarantino, which the author entitled, “Can Quentin Tarantino and Rumer Willis Save L.A. Theater?” From the very title, I knew this piece would contain inflammatory content, for it immediately beckoned the question, “Why does LA Theatre need saving?”

The review opened with an incendiary assumptive statement, “Los Angeles is teeming with actors, so why is the theater so bad?” This makes me wonder what plays the author has been going to. Surely not those at The Theatre @ Boston Court. Or Rogue Machine. Or Antaeus. Or pretty much anything playing at Atwater Village. Or any of the thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, inventive, and transformative plays I’ve seen throughout Greater Los Angeles over the past six years.

Unless, of course, we have a very different perspective on what makes “good” theatre. If “good” theatre is defined by a star-studded Hollywood cast, and its quality is measured by an audience of celebrities, then I do nothing but go to “bad” plays.

As an avid patron who supports several of LA’s 99-seat theatres, I have been known to see 3 plays a week – on average. There have been weeks where I’ve seen a play each and every single night (hooray for Monday performances!). But why do I do this? I certainly don’t have a stake in the matter. I am not part of the theatre industry, nor am I related to anyone who is. Perhaps I am just a glutton for punishment, a ghost or zombie living in the wasteland of LA’s “dead” theatre.

But what a disservice that thought is to the talented people who bring these stories to life. How disrespectful it is to discount playwrights whose words capture the feelings that we often fail to articulate; artistic directors who take bold risks; sound, set and lighting designers whose work is often overlooked, especially when its subtly is so masterful that it seems inherent; actors who “strut and fret [their] hour upon the stage” to bring us to laughter or tears and put up a mirror to our own lives. And the many, many more talented people who pour their heart and soul into giving me, the theatergoer, an experience I’ll never forget.

I love LA theatre because it’s fearless. Unapologetic. Unafraid to say what needs to be said about everything from government to dogma to our own humanity. Unafraid to explore and overcome boundaries, breaking from traditional forms and moving us into new directions that film and other forms of entertainment can’t do.

I wonder if the author has ever seen a piece by Theatre Movement Bazaar. Or Critical Mass, Four Larks, or Theatrum Elysium. Original and adapted pieces that come alive in imaginative, unpredictable, and riveting ways.

Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoy For the Record. I’ve seen a couple of their shows and have been thoroughly entertained. But entertained in the way that a good cabaret show is entertaining. Not entertained like I was with Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami, where I couldn’t get enough of the conversation with Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X, so I saw the play five times to get my fix.

And though some of the cast for the For the Record productions is certainly good, “bold-face names that could bring other theater directors to tears with envy” is a gross overstatement. The theatre directors I know would cry over Paige Lindsey White, Ann Noble, Jill Van Velzer, or Kalean Ung any day over Rumer Willis. Don’t even get me started on Tim Cummings, John Sloan, and Justin Huen, to name a few.

To me, LA theatre has been transformative. Boston Court’s Twentieth-Century Way introduced me to the complexity of LA Theatre, with layers upon layers of meaning. Theatrum Elysium’s Cymbeline showed me that dance is a transcendental storytelling mechanism. Rogue Machine’s Small Engine Repair showed me the joy of conversation, and the struggle of growing up. Bad Apples taught me how disturbingly easy it is to dehumanize people. Boston Court’s Creation challenged my notions of love, relationships, and the meaning of “forever.” Repeat viewings of my favorite plays have taught me that perspective is different from where you’re sitting.

So “bad” theatre has taught me critical thinking, compassion, bravery, gratitude. And much, much more.

But this review does bring to bear an important thought: if good theatre is in every pocket of Los Angeles, how did your author miss it, Vanity Fair? How has this person been so out of touch that these outlandish remarks could come to be?

If it hadn’t been for Boston Court, which is conveniently located for me, I’m not sure I would’ve known about the wonders LA Theatre has to offer. I would not have gone as far as assuming that LA Theatre was dead, but I would’ve continued to have a narrow view of what LA Theatre meant, considering only well-promoted, large-scale productions at the Pantages or the Ahmanson.

‘Cause let’s face it: LA Theatre is kind of incestuous. It’s a common occurrence at every play I go to to shock other theatergoers when I tell them I’m not “in theatre.” The conversation often starts with, “Do you know anyone in the cast?” It’s hard for people to fathom that I go see so much theatre without an agenda or vested interest other than the pure joy of experiencing theatre itself.

So maybe, Vanity Fair, you can help “keep LA Theatre alive” for those who aren’t part of the industry by investing in it a little more. Theatres rely heavily on word of mouth, but there is much the local media can do to help boost awareness of the excellent theatre that’s out there. Assuming, of course, that you can set aside the Hollywood song-and-dance to let real LA Theatre shock, impress, delight and transform you.

Yours truly,

Dama

The royal “we”, by Damaris Montalvo

R_II_068By Damaris Montalvo

Jessica Kubzansky is a Shakespearean detective. More like a forensic scientist, or a coroner who performs an autopsy with precision and artistry, searching for the true cause of death. Kubzansky will take a Shakespearean play and dissect it until she finds the real, gritty motivations that drive the characters’ actions. In her recent production of Macbeth with Antaeus, she dug into an often overlooked line of Lady M’s and presented the couple’s grief stemming from the loss of their infant child.

In RII, Kubzansky pays tribute to The Bard by respecting the importance Shakespeare placed on the power of words, letting his words influence everything from casting to set design. Continue reading

The Harpe Brothers: America’s first serial killers

I_Took_You_For_an_IndianOne story claims they were brothers born on the dawn of the American Revolution—another they were cousins emigrated from Scotland years previous. Some claimed they killed out of disgust for their fellow man…others that they were driven to revenge the murder of their father. The stories of the Brothers’ Harpe are many and conflicted, and yet all agree that two men, Micajah “Big” Harpe and Wiley “Little” Harpe, waged a bloody rampage of murder against the people of the newly founded United States of America, a land that came to know them as its first serial killers.

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My artistic home…

rizzorealMany years ago, when Eileen T’Kaye called and asked me to come join the team at Boston Court, I had to turn her down because I was deep in a TV development career. I had just begun that path and I felt the need to let it play out.  Five years later, Eileen called again and said “OK…how about now?”  By that point, the television career felt more like a weight I was carrying around.  I sorely missed being part of a team working together to produce smart and insightful art.

So I jumped at the chance to return to my first true love: the theatre.  For the next three years I toiled beside Michael Seel, Michael Michetti and Jessica Kubzansky among many other wonderful people.  They started this extraordinary place and welcomed me with open arms and I dove right in.  One of my first tasks as Managing Director was to scrape fat off the stoves we were using as set pieces in our 2005 production of Medea.  A glamorous job, right?  But it felt wonderful to be back in the theater and connected to art.  I felt whole again.

Since then, my love affair with Boston Court has both endured and grown.  When my son was born in 2007 I had to take some time away, but I kept myself connected by working as the Company Manager because it was difficult for me to NOT be a tangible part of Boston Court.  Luckily our team valued our connection enough to move things around to make that possible, and when it was clear that my son was ready for me to return to work full time, my Boston Court family was happy to welcome me back as Production Manager.  What I said then is what I say now: This is my artistic home and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

I passionately believe in the work that we do and have given many days of my life to supporting it.  Last year, my husband and I committed to donating $500 a year.  I know not everyone can give that much but it’s the level that feels good to me.  Boston Court has given me so much artistic joy and such familial belonging, it is the least I can do.  Thank you for passionately supporting us and considering a donation at the level that feels good to you. 

Cheryl Rizzo, Production Manager

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