Who he is: Adventure Theatre MTC’s Producing Artistic Director
What he’s done: directed, choreographed and performed at Arena Stage, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, The Kennedy Center and Washington National Opera. He received the Montgomery County Executive’s Excellence in the Arts and Humanities – Emerging Leader Award in 2010.
Where he’s been: Studied creative writing and music at Susquehanna University, and theater and dance at The Washington Ballet, The Dance Theatre of Harlem, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He has taught theater and dance at George Washington, Catholic and Howard universities, Montgomery College and the Washington Ballet.
How do you define yourself professionally?
I do struggle at this point in my life with the idea of being an “artist.” I like to reserve that term for people who are the “real deal.” That could be my own insecurities about my “art,” which is something that I think all artistic types struggle with. So, yes, I direct, I choreograph, and I write plays. I’ll let others decide if I am a director, choreographer or playwright.
Who are you personally?
I would say a dad, partner, mentor, learning how to be a friend. Generous, opinionated, helpful, giving. Fun and creative. Thankful for the opportunities. A man for others and an avid TV watcher.
What is your vision for the future for yourself?
Ten years ago, this is not what I imagined I would be doing. I have changed my career so many times in my adult life — always in the arts, but I went to college as a classical trumpet player, then moved on to classical dance, then theater, teaching, etc. I love being an artistic director and at this moment, hope to do this for a very long time. The only other thing that I truly love as much is teaching.
What is your vision for ATMTC?
My vision for ATMTC is to continue growing it, but not for the sake of growing. And I’m not necessarily talking about scale. In the D.C. region, we have plenty of large theater companies. I want the theater and academy to grow and reach its potential, to have a sustainable model, reserves and continue pushing ourselves to get better at our art, teaching and product. I am most excited about the Academy and the impact that we can have on the field and the community as we try to nurture the next generation of artists. I am excited about the possibility of our students becoming performers, teachers or artistic directors. Really, who would not want to go to work every day with this possibility on the horizon?
What is your vision for the arts in MoCo?
I want to find ways to collaborate and continue growing, as we support each other. Patronage begets more patronage and sometimes, as we struggle for funding, support and patronage, we become unnecessarily competitive. I’d love to see us work together to create a partnership where we all work together to get non-patrons to become patrons.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment at ATMTC?
I would say, ATMTC’s production of “Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.” We got the rights to use Marley’s songs and create a new children’s musical. At first, this seemed like a very strange idea. But, once I investigated his full cannon of work, his songs work on so many levels. They are universal themes that are multi-generational and extremely tuneful. Meshing these songs with a new Jamaican fairy tale I created was so much fun.
But still, was it going to work? Well, so many new people came to the theater that would have never have come and the show transferred to the New Victory Theatre on 42nd street in New York City and received more press than any other show in ATMTC’s history.
What haven’t you done that you really want to do?
I want to produce a two-act family-friendly musical. At present, our patron base ages out at 8 years of age. This means we lose them until they themselves become parents. Some of our patrons move on to our academy and many continue to see theater, but sadly, we don’t produce much that appeals to kids past the age of 8. This next summer, we are producing the full-length version of “Oliver.” This will be a chance to showcase many of our students and keep our patrons after the age of 8.
I know you have a young son, who I assume is an AT fan. What do you want him to know about who you are professionally?
At age 13, he routinely professes how much he hates theater. I think most of that comes with the age, but I also imagine that when you are with dad in rehearsal and when you have seen so many shows you can develop a slight distaste. When I sneakily force him to see a show (typically preceded by slamming doors and stomping up and down the stairs), he usually has a great time. He’ll be a great arts supporter, but not an artist – which is OK by me.
I want him to know that his dad does what he does because he loves it. Not for accolades, but truly to entertain people. We have so much going on in our lives that escaping the world in a magical room like a theatre is so important and fun. It’s a vocation or a calling and it makes me happy.
Update: What have you been up to since we last spoke?
Busy, busy, busy!
· Finished two Executive Programs: Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspective in Non-Profit Management, and National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program
· Wrote two musicals: “Garfield, The Musical with Cattitude” (co-written by Jim Davis) and “Three Little Birds” (co-written by Bob Marley) being published by Rogers and Hammerstein
· My musical “Caps for Sale” (co-written by Ann Marie Mulhern Sayer and Bill Yanesh) had an Off-Broadway run at the New Victory Theatre on 42nd street in New York City
· Won two awards: 2015 EXCEL Leadership Award from the Center for Nonprofit Advancement and 2016 Maryland Theatre Guide’s Person of the Year
· Directed shows at Next Stop Theatre and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and choreographed at Olney Theatre Center, Studio Theatre and Ford’s Theatre.